Swimming will be off-limits at Wendt Beach for the duration of the 2014 summer season while the Erie County Department of Parks and Recreation focuses on making another Evans locale, Bennett Beach, the county’s preferred swimming destination.
“Wendt Beach is not closed for the whole year. It’s just that swimming will be prohibited at Wendt Beach,” Parks Commissioner Troy Schinzel said Wednesday.
As a result, there will be no lifeguards stationed at Wendt Beach during the season. A notice on the county’s website reads: “Please note that in 2014 lifeguards will not be present at Wendt Beach. Swimming is prohibited at Wendt Beach. For any questions or additional beach information, please call 858-7037.”
Conversely, lifeguards will be on duty seven days a week at Bennett Beach, a half-mile down the road from Wendt Beach in the Town of Evans.
“We’re just obviously making a better decision in terms of the nicest beach we’ve got, having it open seven days a week with lifeguards, instead of a beach that was not in great shape,” said Schinzel.
Wendt Beach, a 170-acre lakefront property that formerly housed the Henry W. Wendt Jr. family summer estate, will remain open for those looking to picnic, grill food or stroll the beach. However, compared with Bennett Beach, Wendt is in less than ideal shape for swimming, the commissioner said.
“Swimming conditions over the last couple of years have been terrible, with lots of slate (and) shale,” said Schinzel.
“We’ve seen a decrease in people going to Wendt for the swimming aspect anyway. So, instead of having it lifeguarded and fully staffed, we’re going to concentrate on Bennett Beach, which is a half-mile down the road, and have that fully lifeguarded, while also increasing our hours there,” Schinzel said.
Signs warning against swimming will be erected at Wendt Beach, and the beach will be monitored by parks workers, sheriff’s deputies and Town of Evans police, he added.
As a result of not having lifeguards at Wendt Beach, Schinzel said his department is able to hire additional seasonal staff. Those temporary workers will be deployed to help clean shelters and restrooms, mow grass and perform other maintenance at five of the dozen parks operated by the county.
“I haven’t had a seasonal parks staff since I came aboard,” said Schinzel, who has headed Parks and Recreation since Jan. 1, 2012.
The seven-days-a-week lifeguard coverage at Bennett Beach will start in mid-June.