NY state parks to allow swimming without lifeguards

The summer is for swimming but is it safe to be in the Long Island Sound without lifeguards?

For the first time in nearly 40 years, officials with New York state parks are giving visitors a choice: guarded and unguarded beaches. For example, the Parks Office will allow swimming without supervision at the new Hallock State Park Preserve on the North Shore.

"By offering both guarded and unguarded swimming areas and dramatically expanding efforts to teach people to swim through the State Parks Learn-To-Swim program, we're providing people with the option to swim in a more natural, less developed setting such as Hallock," parks spokesman Dan Keefe said in a statement.

"If you're on an area that's not lifeguarded then you're going to put yourself at potential risk," said Bobby Hazen, the founder of End Drowning Now. He said Hallock is especially dangerous because the cell phone service is spotty and getting to the nearest landline to call 911 could take 10 minutes.

The Wading River Fire Department has already made about five water rescues this season. The department expects that number to go up once Hallock opens. Second Assistant Chief Branden Heller said these beaches need lifeguards in part because many people aren't familiar with the waterways.

Riverhead officials will consider having town lifeguards protect the beach once Hallock opens if the state will reimburse them.

State parks have 12 miles of guarded beaches on Long Island.