VERO BEACH - According to the Vero Beach Lifeguard Association, local beaches are experiencing an attendance boom. The VBLA estimates 841,413 people visited the city’s three lifeguarded beaches at Jaycee, Humiston and South Beach parks during 2019.
The 2019 park attendance just surpassed the 2018 estimate of 838,981, which was the prior record. The VBLA started counting beach attendance in 2012, when there were 778,060 visitors.
Considering the percentage of beaches not included in the count, the VBLA estimates that over one million people visit beaches in Vero Beach every year.
March had the highest monthly attendance of 2019, with 93,265 beach visitors. May, August, October, and November each broke attendance records for those months.
Those figures don’t include beach patrons during the extended Memorial Day to Labor Day hours, when lifeguards work added shifts from 5-7 p.m. During those hours, an additional 46,462 people were counted at the lifeguarded beaches. Extended hours attendance is not calculated in the total beach attendance to allow accurate year-to-year comparisons with years that did not have extended hours.
Lifeguards count people within the three lifeguarded parks plus 100 yards north and south of each park. That represents only 11% of the four miles of beach within Vero Beach.
The low percentage of lifeguarded beaches on the city’s four miles of beach remains one of the VBLA’s primary ongoing concerns. The one beach fatality of the year occurred at an unguarded area.
“Of 13 South Florida east coast municipalities, Vero Beach ranked second with the least guarded beach area (.34 miles), third with the smallest percent of guarded beach (9%) and third with the farthest distance between lifeguard towers (1 mile), yet ranked third behind Miami Beach and Hollywood Beach with the largest number of beach patrons per tower (219,500),” said the VBLA yearly report.
The VBLA expressed concern about the central beach area north of Humiston Park to Conn Beach, which is unprotected by lifeguards and outside the line of sight from the Humiston and Jaycee Park lifeguard towers. This area is popular with tourists staying at beachside hotels.
The VBLA also worries that parking difficulties near the protected beaches are leading visitors to spread out to unprotected beaches. Not only is swimming safer around lifeguards, but they also keep an eye out for illegal activities.
September had low attendance due to Hurricane Dorian. Jaycee Park and Conn Beach were closed during parts of December due to the beach renourishment program that will continue to close some local beaches through March. Beaches are closed during renourishment to allow the safe movement of big trucks carrying sand.