DULUTH – A lifeguard station along the world's largest freshwater sandbar could soon get a boost from the people it serves.
Duluth is considering spending $75,000 in tourism tax dollars for lifeguards at the Park Point Beach House, which sees up to a thousand visitors a day during nice summer days on the Lake Superior shoreline.
The Duluth Area Family YMCA, which staffs the lifeguards, said it intends to increase hours and take on more duties, such as changing out warning flags as conditions change.
"Requests from the public have included desire for longer evening hours to accommodate after-work/school beachgoers," according to the Y's application for the tax dollars.
That will all depend on its new contract with the city, which is still getting worked out, said Parks and Recreation Manager Jessica Peterson.
"We're going to need more time to figure out how to work together," she said. "We know there will be an increase in the amount of services Duluth Y guards provide to the city and to the public on Park Point."
Lifeguards in recent seasons have staffed the beach house seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — except on red flag days, when it is deemed too dangerous to be near the water. There were more than a dozen red flag warnings issued for Park Point beaches this year, something the Y wants to see better publicized with the tourism tax dollars.
The Y has in recent years paid for lifeguards through concession sales and building rentals, which limited its ability to expand the program.
More than half of beachgoers on Park Point are from out of town, according to data on who borrows life jackets.
"Park Point itself hosts a disproportionate number of tourists and, accordingly, a disproportionate number of the folks who actually have needed to be rescued historically have been visitors," Jim Filby Williams, the city's director of public administration, told the Duluth City Council on Thursday night.
In 2017, rip currents were responsible for the death of a man and his young daughter visiting the area.
The city expects to spend $12 million from its tourism tax collections next year, which come from food, beverage and lodging taxes. The City Council is expected to vote on the spending plan Tuesday.
Staff writer Katie Galioto contributed to this report. Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496