Vero Beach Lifeguard Association (VBLA): Life Saving & Public Safety in Need of a New “House of Refuge”

written by Sherry Nist

Humiston Park, VBLA “House of Refuge”

Any Santa out there want to be the hero to Vero Beach residents, visitors & our very hard working public safety organization that protects our beaches 365 days of the year?  The Vero Beach Lifeguard Association (VBLA) is in dire need of a new structure, a “House of Refuge” at Humiston Park and is just a donor away from making it happen.  

VBLA’s current structure at Humiston Park is falling apart and no longer provides the space, safety, shelter nor image of professionalism that the VBLA exhibits everyday.

Who are the VBLA?

According to the VBLA website:  “The Vero Beach Lifeguard Association is a non-profit organization with a mission to promote lifeguarding and water safety in Vero Beach and the surrounding communities. Started in August of 2011 by area lifeguards, community activists, business people and concerned citizens, the VBLA strives to keep our beaches as safe as possible by supplying needed equipment to Vero Beach lifeguards, conducting water safety classes and keeping the public and community leaders informed about local surf conditions, beach attendance, aquatic life, water rescues and more through a monthly VBLA Beach Report.”

As far as I am concerned, that is an understatement.  The VBLA is on our beaches, in the elements, 365 days of the year with a mission (read: fierce passion) to monitor our beaches for your safety.  These gentlemen not only save lives but must make split-second decisions based on the ever-changing weather, tides & wildlife in an ocean environment; decisions that are not always popular with “we, the beach-loving public”. 

Tough job. Tough environment. VBLA loves their jobs. Let’s show VBLA the love we have for Vero’s beaches & their efforts.

VBLA needs a new, state-of-the-art lifeguard station at Humiston that matches the professionalism, dedication & needs of Vero’s lifesavers & beach visitors. Humiston happens to be one of the top 10 parks in Florida.  Fact.

The current Humiston structure has been sitting sentry since 1978.  Lifeguards sitting inside cannot see the beach.  When outside, VBLA’s guards are subject to all the elements the ocean environment provides.  The building is moldy, has holes in the floorboards & walls; the windows are cloudy and the guards frequently find snakes and/or rats inside upon opening in the mornings.

Indian River County Fire & Rescue have state of the art facilities.  It just makes good sense. Public safety sense.

Tourism is the #1 industry in Indian River County.

An estimated 1 million people visit the beaches of Vero Beach every year. VBLA is dedicated to keeping tourists and locals safe while advocating the need for clean beaches, well equipped lifeguards and an informed public.

Through multiple fundraisers every year, VBLA has raised thousands of dollars which goes directly back into our community. Please help VBLA keep our beaches, the economic engine of our community, safe, clean and protected.

Vero is a Giving Community.  Let’s Give VBLA a new “House of Refuge”

VBLA has been trying to get a new structure at Humiston since 2012.  No easy feat due to all the regulations and approvals any proposed oceanfront structure needs to move towards build.  The Florida Department of Environmental Protection nixed the initial proposal since that structure strayed from the current structure’s footprint.

According to VBLA’s Erik Toomsoo, the new House of Refuge “puts lifeguards in a better position to see more of the beach”.  A visual advantage.  A lifeguard’s job is to “see” danger & situations before others.  And, “the public will NOT lose space; there is NO visual intrusion of the ocean from Ocean Drive.  A House of Refuge has historical significance and we have worked hard to create a functional, visually pleasing & iconic landmark

“VBLA needs about $250,000 to complete the project and is looking for a ‘naming rights’ donor. They are looking for private funding to keep things simple.

Florida’s First Lifesaving Station, the Bethel Creek House of Refuge, was in Vero Beach

The first East Coast of Florida Lifeguard Tower, House of Refuge, was at the current location of Jaycee Park. Completed in 1876, it was built by the United States Life Saving Service & its mission was to provide a safe haven for the shipwrecked along the desolate coast of Florida. (Florida’s only surviving  House of Refuge is now a museum in Stuart.)

The Bethel Creek House of Refuge was most certainly put in to service during one of Vero’s most well known shipwrecks:  The Wreck of the Breconshire in 1894.  During World War II, the station was used by the military.  After the war, it was dismantled.  Today, there is a historical marker on the north side of Conn Boardwalk, marking the House of Refuge’s location.

Vero is such a Giving Town whose Beaches Draw People from all Over the World.

Let’s honor our beaches, our history & the hard work of the VBLA by coming together and finding the angel to provide a new, state of the art House of Refuge at Humiston.  Tis the season.  It is far better to give than receive AND this is a gift for all of Vero.

Sherry Nist