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GAZETTE STAFF

Public input is needed to help decide if there will continue to be summer lifeguards at Lake Elmo State Park.

The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks will host a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at its Billings headquarters, 2300 Lake Elmo Drive.

The park's budget for temporary workers is used to hire lifeguards, but the department is considering using that money for other positions, said Carillon Steorts of FWP.

"We're thinking of doing away with lifeguards, but we need lots of public input before making that decision," Steorts said.

Park Manager Terri Walters said public comment will help the department decide how to use manpower "for the overall good of the park and its visitors."

"Lake Elmo has a small seasonal budget and we are at the point of trying to stretch out temporary workers and dollars to get the most we can for the public using the park," Walters said.

The park could employ people to collect fees, which would bring in more money for improvements. Some of the temporary worker positions could be used for maintenance and grounds. The money also could be used to hire people to provide more evening programs, which has been a department goal for several years.

The meeting will also cover the direction of managing Lake Elmo State Park in coming years.

FWP inherited the lifeguard program when it acquired the lake and did not intend to keep it permanently, Walters said. Phasing out the lifeguard program is one of the objectives of the statewide State Parks 2020 Plan.

For the last several years, lifeguards have worked only eight weeks each summer. Last year was the first season that FWP allowed open swimming throughout the lake, rather than restricting swimmers to a roped off area.

"There were no problems," Steorts said. "In fact, it made it easier because the lifeguards didn't have to shoo everyone back and corral them in."

Anyone who cannot attend the meeting is encouraged share their ideas with Walters by calling her at 247-2955.

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