Destin on Guard: Lifeguards to extend patrol through end of October

Savannah Vasquez
Destin Beach Safety will extend its season due to increased visitors along the beach.

The summer season might be officially over but the visitors are sticking around according to observations coming in from area business owners and beach personnel.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of people visiting,” said Beach Safety Chief Joe D’Agostino. “The fall break, during the September and October timeframe used to be a drop-off but that doesn’t happen anymore; the season has certainly gotten longer.”

D’Agostino added that the usual cutoff date for patrolled beaches in Destin is Oct. 15, given a contract with the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council, but due to the swell in fall visitors he said he believes the patrol dates need to be reassessed.

“The TDC only contracts us to stay out until the 15th, but we are staying out until November first,” he said. “They (the TDC) have done such a good job of bringing tourists in during our shoulder season that we just need to stay out longer.”

Destin Fire Commissioner’s Chairman Tommy Green said that although the TDC is keeping lifeguards on Okaloosa Island beaches through the end of the month, funding for the Destin Beach Safety program was not extended to match.

“In the contract they (the TDC) had us cutting off on the 15th, yet they are keeping theirs on until November first,” he said of the County’s lifeguard program. “There is nothing to keep our people on(the beaches).”

Green, who owns restaurant franchise Another Broken Egg in Destin, said that he noticed an large increase in his patrons compared to last year and given that fact, decided to come up with a plan to keep Destin’s lifeguards on the beach through the end of the month.

“In light of the fall break, I discussed it with Chief Sasser and Joe, and we decided to keep the people on until November first,” he said. “You are seeing families here…the weather is for it, the people are here; It’s not rocket science, it’s just taking care of the people while they’re here.”

The Destin Fire Control District has taken initiative to keep Destin’s six miles of beach manned through Oct. 31, and Green said they will definitely be reviewing the County contract before next season.

“We are trying to make these corrections for next year, but we are going to make it happen this year,” he said. “We will work it around in the budget we have, but regardless of the cost we’ve got to make it happen. They(the TDC) have gotten them (visitors) to come, but there’s a responsibility to protect them while they’re here.”

2,584,228 Visitors on the beach

65 Major First Aids

520 Minor First Aids

231 Persons rescued

285 Assists

109 Missing Persons reunited with parents or guardians

120 Destin Junior Lifeguard Participants

0 Drownings on guarded beaches

Destin Lifeguards by the numbers: