On Wednesday, all Florida coastal state parks without lifeguards were instructed not to put up their beach warning flags. This leaves swimmers with no official indications of the conditions in the water.
Park officials say by not putting up the warning flags they implemented a measure that came out of the state Legislature in 2002. They give several reasons for going without them. They say with the differing beach warning flags across the state, beachgoers can become confused and this is a way to limit that confusion. Also, officials say without lifeguards they have no one to judge the conditions of the water and in turn put up the flags.
The Parks Department says this measure will not go away anytime soon. If you visit a state park without a lifeguard, such as St. Andrew?s, you'll have to use your own best judgment at what the conditions are.
State parks that employ lifeguards will continue to use the state recommended flag system. Officials acknowledge the timing of the measure may bring on much criticism from the public, but they say they stand by their decision.
When asked if the absence of warning flags would open up the state to more lawsuits, park officials said in a sense this new measure will protect them from lawsuits. The sign says "swim at your own risk", which means you take full responsibility for what happens when you enter the water.
The majority of our coastal state parks do not employ lifeguards and will be without beach warning flags.