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Lifeguards to return to Glenn Otto Park

by: File photo, River rescue technician Scott Campbell supervises last year as students complete a two-person contact rescue in the Sandy River during a demonstration.

With warmer weather around the corner, the 20 or so lifeguards who keep the popular Sandy River area safe at Glenn Otto Park are busy training for the tricky waterway.

The river-rescue medics will begin their ninth year of watching over the park's beach area at a river kickoff event Saturday, May 21. Being a lifeguard allows ambulance crews with American Medical Response a change of pace, said spokeswoman Lucie Drum.

They undergo extensive swift and cold water rescue training, constantly monitor the river's temperatures and potential hazards, and offer life jackets to swimmers, especially children.

Such efforts have helped reduce what had been multiple drowning incidents each summer before the lifeguards to zero incidents in the program's eight years. The Troutdale Boosters and American Medical Response jointly fund the program, Drum said.

Each summer the medics, often in kayaks, assist scores of swimmers who are tired or caught off guard by the swift, cold current.

One narrow spot, where the Sandy River thunders between two large rock outcroppings, keeps them particularly busy. The stretch, next to a long, sandy beach, 'looks inviting,' Drum said. But swimmers can quickly get forced along the rocks in frigid water.

The medics, working in teams of two, arrive at Glenn Otto Park early in the morning, usually before the public, and begin assessing river conditions.

The program's success had led American Medical Response to team with Safe Kids USA, a group that works to reduce accidental childhood injuries. The groups are touting Troutdale's program to highlight the importance of water safety.