Without lifeguards, ambassadors work to keep Milwaukee's beachgoers safe
The lifeguard shortage across Milwaukee County pools and beaches is noticeable. For the third year in a row, there are no lifeguards at Bradford Beach but you may have seen beach ambassadors in bright blue shirts walking along the lake.
The beach ambassadors are not lifeguards, but they provide water safety information to beachgoers, like what the flying flags signify or if the water is safe to enter.
"The first year we realized that, besides the pandemic, this is a health crisis. Really, we wanted people to enjoy the open spaces, to do them safely and without lifeguards. Without many other people being able to jump in with education, we decided as a group that beach ambassadors would be a good way for us to say welcome to the beach," says Teresa Coronado, outreach and development director at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center.
Ambassadors work Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., mainly at Bradford Beach. Coronado says the group also tries to make sure people are safe at the Government Pier at McKinley Marina.
Mikayla Walker, an undergraduate student at UWM, says that as an ambassador, she's found that many people are interested in learning what's going on at the beach and how green spaces connect how people in the city engage with Milwaukee.
Walker says that ambassadors are full of information and training for the program includes learning about how racism affects how Black and brown people have access to waterfronts and green spaces. Being Mexican-American, she says she can relate to family members being weary of water.
It's a privilege to learn how to swim, Walker adds.
"I have so many like wonderful experiences and memories with my family going to the Dells and going swimming, and to think about somebody else not having that same opportunity is just, it's unfortunate and I think it shouldn't be a privilege. We should all have access to the lake because it's sitting right here waiting for us all to enjoy it," she says.