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Guilford mother effecting change in life jacket law

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GUILFORD--For 21 years swimmers at Guilford beaches have not been allowed to wear any flotation devices, including life jackets, but that might soon change.

On Memorial Day weekend, a Guilford family who was enjoying Jacobs Beach was told by a lifeguard  that their 4-year-old had to remove the life jacket she was wearing. The girl's mother and father were unaware of and upset by the town’s policy.

Rick Maynard, the director of Parks and Recreation for Guilford, says he met with the mother, who told him she was a lifeguard for 20 years on Long Island and that she didn't agree with the town's ordinance.

"She thought, in her experience of being a lifeguard for all those years, that it didn’t make sense to have her child in the water without one," said Maynard.

Among the reasons Guilford has the policy in place, Maynard says, is that flotation devices give parents and children a false sense of security. And, he adds, children who uses these aids tend to learn how to swim at an older age than those who don’t.

Maynard says this was the first time this town ordinance has been challenged. So he met with the resident, the town’s insurance agency, the Red Cross and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to gather information.

It was following this fact-finding mission that he recommended to the town's Parks and Recreation Commission that the ordinance be changed to allow Coast Guard-approved life jackets, which is what state law permits.

“The next Parks and Recreation Commission meeting is early July and then it’s back to the Board of Selectmen,” said Maynard, who noted a public hearing would also need to be held before the change could be made. He said, if the policy is reversed, it would likely take effect no sooner than early August.

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