The East Bay Regional Park District’s Lifeguard Service has a long tradition of providing top quality public service by enhancing swimming safety. This brief look at swim area and the lifeguard service’s history should give staff some context in recognizing the important role they play in this valuable public service.
California history is punctuated with water wars affecting its preservation, control, and use. The lakes and reservoirs of California are an integral part of this struggle. Even before California became a state, inhabitants wrestled with water issues. Efforts made by Californians are major factors in what makes the state not only habitable, but prized by so many.
The East Bay Regional Park District recognizes lakes and reservoirs as precious natural resources. In fact, water issues triggered the public will to establish the EBRPD. In the early 1920’s, East Bay leaders realized that in order for economic and population growth to continue, they needed to secure water. The result was the formation of what became the East Bay Municipal Utilities District, who developed a water supply from the Sierra Nevada watershed via the Mokelumne River and Pardee reservoir.
By 1931 the Wildcat Creek watershed became unnecessary to EBMUD. So, to prevent them from selling the land to private developers, the EBRPD was created with the intent to preserve the area as parkland. The District continues to acquire, maintain and operate watershed land and reservoirs throughout the East Bay, fulfilling its mission to balance public use with protection and preservation of our natural resources for generations to come.
Swim Area Beginnings
The first reservoir the EBPRD acquired was Lake Temescal, in Oakland. It was created in 1868 in order to give Oakland its first city water supply (but was soon relegated to a secondary water source). By 1936, Lake Temescal was used just for recreation and joined Wildcat Canyon (now Tilden Regional Park) and Roundtop (now Sibley Regional Volcanic Preserve) as the EBRPD’s first 3 parks. Another area reservoir, Lake Anza in Tilden Regional Park, was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps building a dam in the upper Wildcat Gorge in 1938, as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to promote economic recovery. Swimming at these two locations continues today.
In 1953, Roberts Pool was constructed in the redwood forest of the Oakland Hills, thus creating the first swimming pool of the District.
The creation of Cull Canyon and then Don Castro has the Davis Grunsky Act of 1960 to thank for their origin. The act was a statewide program that provided financial aid to local public agencies for the development, control and conservation of the water resources of California. In the early 1960’s Alameda County Flood Control District built dams on Cull Creek (for Cull Canyon) and San Lorenzo Creek (for Don Castro) and reached agreement with the Park District to operate the facilities for recreation. In 1964 Cull Canyon lagoon opened and in 1966 it won the Governor’s Design award for Exceptional Distinction for Recreational Development. By 1969 Don Castro’s swim lagoon was operating with lifeguards.
The next EBRPD location to allow lake swimming was Contra Loma reservoir in Antioch. The reservoir was created as part of the Central Valley Project, one of the Nation’s major water conservation developments, and is an off-stream storage facility for the Contra Costa Canal. The dam was dedicated in November 1967, with a portion of the lake open for swimming in 1968. By 2002 a swimming lagoon was opened at Contra Loma, taking recreational swimming out of the reservoir.
Near the time that Contra Loma was built, development was taking place on the State Water Project in Livermore. In 1968 the dam for Lake Del Valle was built as part of the South Bay Aqueduct portion of the Project. The reservoir provides water storage and flood control for Alameda Creek. Interestingly, the Hetch Hetchy pipeline, built well before the reservoir, goes under the lake but does not connect to it. The campground and other amenities took two years to complete so the official park opening was in April 1970.
The next reservoir swimming area to be developed was Shadow Cliffs in Pleasanton; a rock quarry donated to the EBRPD by Kaiser Industries. Facilities were built in 1971 with funding from a matching grant provided by the U.S. Bureau of Outdoor Recreation.
The most recent District lake swimming facility developed was Quarry Lakes in Fremont which opened for public use in 2001. The quarries, for which the park is named, were established in the mid-19th century to gather gravel for the construction of the transcontinental railroad's western section. After quarrying came to an end, the lakes were used for groundwater recharge by the Alameda County Water District, which diverts water from Alameda Creek into the pits. The property that now comprises the park was acquired by the two agencies between 1975 and 1992 through purchase, donation and inter-agency agreements. The park is made up of three lakes, Horseshoe (which allows swimming), Lago Los Osos and Rainbow Lake. Of the park's 450 acres, some 350 acres are the lakes. Lifeguards also provided service at Camp Arroyo for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
Castle Rock pool in Diablo Foothills Regional Park was first lifeguarded by District lifeguards in 2008 when the District took over operations from a private concessionaire.
Lifeguard Service History
According to the 1968 aquatics division annual report, Aquatic Supervisor Robert O’Brien states, “Prior to 1965, accurate written records of the swimming program were not kept.” In spite of this there’s a newspaper article in the District’s archives from 1938 that describes a District Lake Temescal lifeguard responding to aid an electrocuted lineman near the lake.
- 2013 represents the 75th year of District lifeguard service. Following are some points of trivia:
- 1937: District Board of Directors announces in a press release free swimming at Lake Temescal. They expect attendance records to be broken.
- 1938: Al Kallunki is the District’s Water Safety Advisor. He also serves as the Director of Swimming at the Oakland Women’s City Club Tank.
- 1939: District offers a $25 cash reward for the most fitting name for Tilden’s new lake (Lake Anza is the winning name).
- 1940: Gus Johnson is the District’s Water Safety Advisor. He also serves as the Berkeley Swimming Commissioner.
- 1942: 1st female lifeguard hired. Cicsa Klein at Lake Anza.
- 1964: Dale Roe is the District’s Water Safety Advisor. It’s unclear what year he started the position but it was likely in the late ‘50’s. He also served as the American Red Cross Aquatic Specialist.
- 1965: Lake Anza, Cull Canyon, Roberts, and Temescal were the guarded facilities with a recorded visitation of 425,959. Rick Kimmel is the District’s Aquatic Supervisor (possibly the District’s first staff member in this position).
- 1966: Robert O’Brien becomes the Aquatic Supervisor through 1972.
- 1968: Contra Loma was added as a guarded facility. Total visitation: 578,535.
- 1969: Don Castro opens with lifeguard service. The Lifeguard Manual was 9 pages long.
- 1970: Lifeguard Medical Standards: Males minimum height 5’8”, weight 150 lbs. Females 5’4”, weight 116 lbs. Flat feet were not allowed.
- 1972: Junior lifeguard program initiated for those 14-16 years old.
- 1973: It cost 25 cents to swim at Roberts. Frank Blazic is Aquatic Specialist through 1978.
- 1975: Although not represented by AFSCME Local 2428, lifeguards walked out on strike to show solidarity.
- 1979: Lucy (Delacy) Woolshlager is Aquatic Specialist through 2000.
- 1982: There were 62 guards on the roster with 8 facilities guarded (Shadow, DV, Anza, Roberts, Don Castro, Temescal, Contra Loma, and Cull Canyon).
- 1985: 25% of lifeguard staff were females and 10% were non-Caucasian.
- 1989: Administrative Analyst, Dan McCormick, added to support the Aquatic Specialist. Aquatic Specialist was responsible for providing technical aspects (recruitment, testing, training, equipment, deployment) of the lifeguard operation. Park Supervisors had direct lifeguard supervisory responsibility.
- 1994: Agency receives first certification from USLA for its lifeguard training program (the first year USLA certification was available).
- 1995: March: Agency reorganization puts lifeguards under direct supervision of Aquatics staff and moves from the Operations department to the Interpretation and Recreation (I+R) department. June: Junior lifeguard program begins with 13 participants at two locations for one session. Also lifeguards join AFSCME and receive partial rights to collective bargaining agreement.
- 1996: Administrative Analyst title changed to Aquatic Supervisor. Second Aquatic Supervisor, Paul Fordyce, added.
- 1998: Lifeguard Service Manual revised to its current format.
- 1999: July: incontinent individuals are prohibited from swimming in un-chlorinated facilities in response to Health Department mandates (commonly known as the diaper ban goes into effect).
- At this time they were called Field Supervisors and Eric was not one of them.
- 2001: Aquatics provides lifeguards to Camp Arroyo for this summer and 2002 until YMCA can take over.
- 2002: Lifeguard service begins at Quarry Lakes. Contra Loma re-opens to swimming as a chlorinated filtered facility (lagoon).
- 2003: 398 junior guard participants at six locations. Lifeguard roster of 152 guarding 10 locations.
- 2005: Drop off rope added to Lake Anza and Temescal swim areas.
- 2006: AEDs placed in service.
- 2007: 2 – 9 month Aquatic Assistants, Eric Nurse and Aaron Roth, hired. Aquatics unit moves from I+R Department to Fire Department.
- 2008: Diablo Foothills Castle Rock pool is guarded by District guards for the first time. Swim area supervision rule in place after pilot program in 2007. Lifeguard staff of 188 at 11 locations.
- 2011: 51 past JG participants had worked as lifeguards.
- 2012: 2 l rescue water craft added to lifeguard boat fleet. 157 lifeguards on staff; 28% female, 23% non-Caucasian.
- 2013: Lifeguard Service’s 75th anniversary. 3rd Aquatic Assistant, Katy Hornbeck, hired.
- 2014: Scheduling of seasonal lifeguards restricted to April through September due to the Affordable Care Act. Dan McCormick hired as Fire Chief, Pete DeQuincy promoted to Aquatics Manager, with Nick Schriver and Katy Hornbeck as Aquatic Supervisors and Eric Nurse, and Aaron Roth as Aquatic Assistants.
- 2015: Jr. Cadet pilot program was started to help bridge the gap between Jr. Cadet Academy and the Lifeguard Academy. 75th anniversary pin project commenced. Kyle Maxwell was hired to fill the open Aquatic Assistant position.