Milwaukee County beaches: No lifeguards; McKinley Beach to be closed

Milwaukee County officials revealed on Friday, May 21 that there will be no lifeguards at the county's beaches this season. 

"The reason we don’t have lifeguards at our beaches this year is because we don’t have any returning guards that have open water experience," Guy Smith, Milwaukee County Parks executive director, said.

County Executive David Crowley joined Smith with the announcement and urged residents to watch for any beach warnings. Signs at the beaches will indicate the following: 

  • RED: It's not safe, do not venture into the water
  • YELLOW: Swim at your own risk
  • GREEN: It's safe to swim

Officials indicated status updates for the beaches will be available on

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McKinley Beach closed

Due to drownings and community concerns, McKinley Beach will remain closed for 2021 as leaders work to figure out a way to solve ongoing problems.

"We have thankfully received funding from the County Board and county executive – $80,000 to study the beach with an engineer and coastal management," Smith said.

Officials said they are excited to learn how they can alter the beach to make it safe for the public once again.

"We don’t want another drowning. It’s very common people feel good about their abilities but you don’t have the abilities," Milwaukee County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman said.

The parks department closed swimming at the beach due to riptide hazards last summer after several people died.

Beachgoers welcome warm weather

Waves and warmth meant a game of Spikeball for Anthony Bartman and his friends at Bradford Beach on Friday. 

"It’s nice and warm, you can go in the lake to chill off," Bartman said. "I love the beach. It’s the closest thing you have to the ocean here in Wisconsin."

With loosening COVID-19 restrictions, county leaders say they expect a busy season at beaches and parks.

"Let’s make sure we continue to work together to have a safe and fun beach season," said Crowley.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office said it will have visible patrols and work to minimize traffic along the lakefront this summer.


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