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Sunday, June 23, 2024
The Observer

St. Joseph beach opens for the first time since pandemic shutdown

St. Joseph Beach is open this fall for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown. Having just opened its doors last week, the beach is fully stocked with staff, sand and sun for the tri-campus community to enjoy.

During the three years of off-time, RecSports gave this space a makeover.

“We took that opportunity to do basically a full upgrade and restoration of the beach as well as the dock,” said Drew Loso, the assistant director of Facilities Management and Operations of RecSports.

The original dock was a wooden structure attached to the shoreline, but the new dock floats in the water and stretches out far beyond where the original ever did. This new amenity is the first stage of a series of added perks that RecSports is continuing to unveil.

The RecSports team collaborated with Facilities Design and Operation, as well as a landscaping company to carry out their vision of beach restoration. 

The beach is now open for as long as weather permits. Veronica Ballinger, the assistant director of Communication and Engagement for RecSports said that safety is of the utmost importance for all the beachgoers and workers.

“Safety, for us, is the number one priority. We want people who are not only recreating down there to be safe, but also the folks we trust around the space to be safe," Ballinger said.

RecSports monitors precipitation and real feel temperature every day to determine whether the beach is safe for all users and workers on that day. The banner at the top of the RecSports website will stay updated on whether any of the facilities are shut down for the day.

Once winter weather hits South Bend, the beach will shut down for the season but will reopen in the spring.

“It won’t be before spring break and then it will just depend on when [the weather] breaks,” which varies year to year, Loso said.

St. Joseph Beach is a free amenity for all Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students, faculty, staff and their families. On the weekends from noon to 7 p.m., family hours allow free admittance to St. Joseph Beach when accompanied by a current member of the tri-campus community with a valid Irish1Card. Children are also welcome on the campus beach during family hours.

All people who wish to swim at the beach must sign the facilities access waiver that covers all RecSports activities for the year. For entry on the beach, the lifeguards need to see both a valid campus ID and a signed digital waiver, but the waiver can be signed at the beach.

Loso said he has seen an improvement in the quality of the beach experience for the students and staff.

“The folks that are coming are not only enjoying it more, but also staying longer," he said.

Some halls and organizations have used the beach for years, and Loso said he expects them all to return to their lake traditions.

One club that utilizes the beach is the sailing club, where they practice Monday to Thursday. They share the space with recreational beachgoers as well.

Not exactly in plain sight, St. Joseph Beach is tucked away around St. Joseph’s Lake. 

“There’s a set of stairs across the street from the St. Liam’s parking lot next to the fire station that leads straight down to the St. Joseph’s trail. Take a right for quick and easy access," Loso said.

Ballinger assured that the lifeguards at St. Joseph Beach were well-trained and could be a resource for any runners on the trail.

“When we’re open, we’re always staffed with lifeguards. Our lifeguards are CPR first-aid trained," he said. There is also a bathroom in the white boathouse across the trail to the beach entrance, available to trail-goers.

St. Joseph Beach has a special meaning for Ballinger, for she wants to broaden the definition of recreation beyond intramural sports or group fitness class.

“Recreation is so much more powerful than that. Recreating is also bringing a book down to the beach … and being able to fill your cup and your bucket in ways that help you take a break from the other stresses going on," Ballinger said.

St. Joseph Beach is open Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon- 7 p.m. The beach will be closed September 2, 16, and 23.