By Randy Arrington
LURAY, July 14 — This Thursday, the Town of Luray will start staffing the popular beach at Lake Arrowhead with two certified lifeguards four days a week for the next six weeks.
“On June 6, 2020, Lake Arrowhead Beach opened with a Swim At Your Own Risk policy, providing access only,” the town’s website reads.
Beginning this week, the beach will be staffed by two lifeguards Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The “Swim At Your Own Risk” signage will remain at the Lake Arrowhead Beach, as it will continue to apply at all other times.
In order to pay for these services, the town plans to begin charging swimmers on Thursday — $3 for ages 3-12; $5 for ages 13 and up.
On Monday night, Councilman Joey Sours proposed the idea of waiving swimming fees for the remainder of the season (through Labor Day) as an added incentive for visitors and an added relief for local residents. However, other council members were concerned about taking the costs out of the town’s general fund.
“User fees are designed to pay for that amenity by people using that amenity,” Councilman Jerry Schiro said Monday night. “If you take [that money] out of the general fund, then everyone pays for it through taxes.”
Councilman Leah Pence urged fellow council members to return lifeguards to the beach — whether they waived swim fees or not — in order to provide a safer environment for the public and potentially reduce the town’s liability.
After a detailed discussion with views exchanged on both sides, the council took no action on Sours’ agenda item. That left the current plan in place — start staffing the beach and start charging swimmers on July 16.
Town Manager Steve Burke estimated that the town could receive between $10,000 to $15,000 in revenue during the six weeks left in Lake Arrowhead’s beach season (through Labor Day weekend). The fees will cover the cost of staffing the beach with lifeguards and general upkeep, estimated at about $7,000 to $8,000 . Burke told the council that six certified lifeguards are available and a schedule has been set.
The concession stand will remain closed at the Lake Arrowhead beach due to costly maintenance. However, a vending machine near the main restrooms still offers cold drinks.
“Historically, we go through two or three repairs of the refrigerator each season,” Burke said of beach concession stand. “When we looked at revenue versus cost to keep that refrigeration working, it didn’t seem to be worth the cost.”
Burke also says the town has posted signage to instruct swimmers to stay within the roped off area at the beach. Some swimmers have been using the boat launch dock as a platform for diving.
“The water level is not sufficient for them to use that as a diving board,” Burke said.
Fishing and boating are still allowed at Lake Arrowhead, but a permit from the town is required ($5 for residents; $7 for non-residents). However, the town has suspended all boat and kayak rentals at Lake Arrowhead this season.
All patrons of Lake Arrowhead, and especially those swimming at the beach, are reminded to practice social distancing.
For more information, visit townofluray.com