To promote water safety and lifeguarding in Vero Beach and the surrounding communities
The purpose of our yearly report is to disseminate information and educate the public about the beaches within the City of Vero Beach. Our four miles of beach to include three lifeguarded beaches at Jaycee, Humiston and South Beach Parks is part of the identity of our town and the foundation for the economic, social and cultural life of our community. The report includes statistics, observations and recommendations gathered from the past year. In addition, we hope to educate those in the public who otherwise may not frequent the beach by providing statistical and environmental facts about our most important local resource. VBLA wishes to thank our members and supporters who have given their time, effort and passion towards our goal of promoting a better beach for all to enjoy.
Total Beach Park Attendance 755339
Preventative Actions 13965
Minor Medicals 321
Major Medicals 29
Fatalities in Guarded Area 0
Fatalities in Unguarded Area 1
Total park attendance increase by 57,000 patrons (8%) from 2016 to over 755,000 in 2017. 2017 saw the second highest beach attendance since 2012 (778,000). Beach attendance has slowly increased every year since 2013. It is important to note that attendance does not include the patrons outside the guarded areas who are more than 100 yards north and south of each guarded beach. In total, the City of Vero Beach has 4 miles of beach with only 600 yards of beach within the guarded areas. Lifeguards have observed that more and more people are sitting outside the guarded areas possibly due to parking issues. Estimates put the total number of people who visit our beach at over 1 million per year.
The total number of medical emergencies increased by 20% from 2016 to 350 incidents in 2017. Water rescues were the lowest since VBLA has been tracking the numbers (2012), down 45% from 2016 with lifeguards rescuing 19 people from rip currents. Approximately one half of all water rescues and medical emergencies occurred outside the guarded areas. Unfortunately, 1 drowning fatality occurred after hurricane Irma (September) when the beaches were closed and lifeguards were not on the beach. Medical emergencies and water rescues occurred in almost every month despite the weather conditions, number of patrons or time of year.
The only months that had less than 40,000 patrons were September and October due to the hurricanes when some of the beach parks were closed for up to a week.
Turtle nesting season ran from April through October with turtle research volunteers marking 1 in every 15 nests.
Beach grooming was conducted by a subcontractor hired by the City of Vero Beach in the months before/after turtle nesting season (November through March).
Beach trash collection was performed by a subcontractor hired by the City. Fortunately, many patrons and civic organization took it upon themselves to clean up much of the debris left by the hurricanes and the public.
Hurricane Irma damaged parts of Humiston, Conn and JayCee Beach Parks including protective dunes.
South Beach Park continues to see growth in its beach and dunes due to migrating sand and restrictive beach grooming.
Humiston Park, with its close proximity to shops, restaurants, bars and hotels along with a new playground is slowly becoming the most popular beach within the City.
Beach erosion seemed to be minimal except during times of large ocean swells and hurricanes when dunes and sea walls sustained damage around the areas of JayCee, Conn and Humiston Beach. “The Cove” (the area from Rio Mar south to Porpoise Point) beach is growing every year and has healthy, expanding dunes within its boundaries.
The subcontractor hired by the City to groom the beach from November through March had problems with the grooming effort. The work was substandard and inconsistent. It is important to note however that by grooming the beach seaweed is removed which traps seeds and other natural materials that promote dune growth. In addition, seabirds and crabs feed on insects and bugs found in the seaweed. The disadvantage of grooming the beach can be observed at South Beach Park where the groomed area is void of dunes. In contrast, the areas not groomed have accumulated healthy dunes which protect private and public property during hurricanes.
After hurricane Irma, it took a long time for the beach parks to be cleaned up and lifeguards put back on the beach. Despite the beach parks being closed and signs posted, the public flocked to the beach without lifeguards present. On September 13th, a local resident drowned in a rip current south of South Beach Park.
The Vero Beach Police started patrolling the beach during certain times of the year. The police presence has helped to curb illegal activity on the beach.
Patrons bringing dogs on the beach continued to be a problem. The law does not allow dogs on any city-owned beach park except for service dogs. Defecation by dogs is unpleasant and a health hazard.
Central Beach (the “hotel district” area north of Humiston Park to Conn Beach) continues to be popular with tourists staying at the beachside hotels and frequenting the area bars and restaurants. Most of the these patrons are unfamiliar with ocean conditions and are unaware of potential threats including the PEP reef which runs the length of Central Beach and lies just beneath the ocean surface along the shoreline. This area is unprotected by lifeguards and is outside the sight line from Humiston and JayCee lifeguard towers.
The lifeguard tower at Humiston Park is in disrepair and does not give lifeguards adequate protection from the weather and the public. In addition, lifeguards are unable to see much of the beach from the tower unless they sit on the boardwalk.
Many individuals and families are on the beach far from a guarded area and/or in the water after lifeguards leave at 5pm.
Beach grooming should be improved with special attention given to the lifeguarded beach parks and areas in front of the hotels.
After storms, safety of the beach patrons and clean up of the beach parks should be placed higher on the priority list during recovery operations. Lifeguards should be on duty at the lifeguard towers rather than outsourced by other departments for debris and trash removal within the City.
Vero Beach Police should be given the resources needed to patrol the beach on a more consistent basis.
Laws prohibiting dogs on the beach should be enforced more vigorously. Stepped up patrols by the police department should improve the situation.
A new, improved lifeguard tower at Humiston Park will enable lifeguards to see more of the beach, especially the “hotel district” while protecting the lifeguards from the weather and some elements of the public who may wish to do them harm. In an effort to be proactive, VBLA is raising money to build a lifeguard tower at Humiston Park which will give lifeguards better fields of vision and protection from the elements and unsafe situations.
Many people visit the beach after 5pm when lifeguards leave the beach for the day. VBLA recommends that lifeguard hours be extended to 7pm to minimize the risk of drowning.
Park Attendance: patrons within the park and areas immediately north and south of each park
Preventative Actions: stopping potential incidents before they occur
Minor Medicals: a medical incident which is treated on-site by lifeguard/EMT personnel
Major Medicals: a medical incident that required additional Emergency Medical Services
This report is furnished by the Vero Beach Lifeguard Association, a non-profit, 501C3 organization. Its mission is to promote water safety and lifeguarding in Vero Beach and the surrounding communities. Contact us at VeroBeachLA@Yahoo.com or (908)797-8725. Visit us at www.VBLA.org. Donations are appreciated. Monies raised are used to purchase equipment, supplies and training for the lifeguards from the city of Vero Beach. Donations via check can be mailed to : VBLA, 1351 White Heron Lane, Vero Beach, FL 32963.
VBLA 2017 Accomplishments:
*Released a beach safety video
*Donated high-quality, polarized sunglasses to City of Vero Beach Lifeguards
*Donated a roof rack for the COVB lifeguard’s new truck
*Donated two trailer hitches for COVB lifeguard’s ATVs
*Donated anti-corrosion block treatments for two of COVB lifeguards ATVs
*With help from Costal Technologies Corporation, Hoos Architects, Farrow Construction and Mill Short Engineering, VBLA continues to pursue building a lifeguard tower and command center at Humiston Park
* Partnered with Vero Beach Skate Park Alliance to build a skate park
*Volunteered for Central Beach PEP reef maintenance
*Awarded two scholarships towards American Red Cross Lifeguard Certification Course
*Volunteered to be part of the City of Vero Beach Centennial celebration
*Conducted beach safety talks at local civic organizations, home school associations and elementary schools
*Published monthly beach safety reports