The Presque Isle Lifeguard Association is a non-profit organization formed in 1988. The association promotes fellowship among lifeguards both past and present. PILA, as it has become known, also plays an important role in park safety by assisting in the certification of current lifeguards and providing much needed equipment for the guards.
Presque Isle is unique in the state park system and what was good for other state parks was not necessarily adequate for PISP guards. Our guards are surf qualified, and the conditions under which guards at PISP operate are much more demanding, and the dangers far greater.
As needs arise on the park, the Presque Isle Lifeguard Association has been there, for more than 30 years, to help ensure the safety of millions who visit Presque Isle State Park annually
The Presque Isle Lifeguard Association was created in 1988 to supplement and enhance the basic waterfront services provided by Presque Isle State Park. Unlike other state parks where lifeguards may not even exist, Presque Isle is a unique waterfront with potentially dangerous surf conditions. The state supports life guarding on the major beaches of Presque Isle, but over the years former Presque Isle lifeguards have made suggestions to enhance those park services.
For instance, Presque Isle beaches are prone to daily changes in bathymetry (underwater sand contours such as deep holes to step into), rip currents, water quality, shoreline erosion, among other issues. Unguarded beaches have seen drowning deaths because of these potential hazards of which the general public may not be cognizant. Since its formation, PILA has been a public advocate in support of enhanced waterfront safety and beach management on the park. As of 2018, the Association has worked for 30 years with our state park officials, the Presque Isle Advisory Committee, other Presque Isle partnerships, our regional leaders and state legislators, to shepherd the care of the Presque Isle waterfront for the benefit of the general public.
As a simple example of this collaboration, historically (1970s - 1980s) the beaches were nourished with upland "sand" - basically dirt. Not only was this a disaster for the park visitors, with filth from the clays it contained, it created unnatural beach conditions, uneven erosion, calving issues and water quality concerns. Lifeguards like Russ Thompson, in partnership with concerned citizens like Sally Kohler, put a stop to this practice insisting on only lake dredged sand for beach nourishment. Additionally for weeks during the summer season, this "nourishment" used to be trucked through the City of Erie for deposition at Presque Isle. PILA lifeguards, working in conjunction with the Presque Isle Advisory Committee, succeeded in eliminating this practice, instead offloading the lake dredged sand directly at the north pier, eliminating the safety hazard of city trucking while simultaneously reducing the cost of the nourishment program.
In addition to enhanced waterfront protections and management, PILA is dedicated to public educational & event offerings to further safety of the public and enhance the visitor experience. For instance, PILA has offered waterfront safety lectures each Sunday 10 AM - 11:30 AM for the last thirty years. For the decade of the Presque Isle Bay swims, as a public service Presque Isle lifeguards swam among & kayaked adjacent to the participants to insure their water safety.
Our membership continues to identify enhancements to support the safety of the public and the public servants that guard the waterfront. From its beginning, the Lifeguard Association has been focused to public services and safety on Presque Isle.