When it comes to enjoying summer, nothing beats a day at a beach, but anyone kicking back on Pennsylvania's sandy shores this year will have to keep up his guard.
That's because lifeguards will be absent again this year, except for the beaches in Presque Isle State Park in Erie and on Fuller Lake in Bucks County. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in 1998 began phasing out the use of lifeguards at most of its beaches.
DCNR spokeswoman Chris Novak said people have become accustomed to the unguarded beaches, and by posting "swim at your own risk" notices, the state can keep beaches open for swimming for longer hours and a longer season.
Presque Isle was to be the sole exemption because of the size and depth of Lake Erie. Following the drowning of a 17-year-old in 2008, though, the state restored guards at Fuller Lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. There have been two other drownings since the state changed its practices, both at guarded beaches in 1999.
In a perfect world, lifeguards would continue to be a reassuring presence on every shore, but that alone is no guarantee against tragedy. In the real world, even while relaxing on a beach blanket, it's important to keep at least one eye open.