Sunken Meadow is also home to once of the top cross country courses in the nation and has held many top running events. "Snake Hill" and "Cardiac Hill" will trigger memories, mostly unfavorable, for folks that have experienced the
The park officially opens at 7am. This means that they start collecting parking fees then but the gates are open well before then. Most triathletes that I know have no problem dropping a ton of money on "stuff" (see wetsuits, bikes, etc.) but make them pay $8 to park and you know they are getting there before 7. Lifeguards typically go on duty at 9AM and are on duty until 7pm for the summer hours.
Now to the safety question. Most triathletes are swimming in groups and because they are there before 7am, are typically done before the lifeguards show up. The state police have been reported to be making people come out of the water since they are officially not allowed to swim without lifeguards on duty.
This morning I swam at Sunken Meadow (in the water at 630am) and was not harassed to come out during my swim. There was at least 3 groups of triathletes totaling about 25 people swimming while I was there (you can tell since they are all wetsuited up - the water was reported to be 68 degrees). The water was like glass and conditions were perfect.
Now I realize that swimming with a life guard would be theoretically safer but still I feel that enforcement of this "no swimming without lifeguards" could be a bit over the top. Many of the folks I train with are, in fact, life guards themselves. Some coach the lifeguards and run the certification program. Of course I'm sure that there are morons, aren't there always, that would swim alone in harsh conditions, get injured (or worse), and blame the state for letting them swim when the police could have yelled at them.
I'm mixed on this. On one hand, as a triathlete with some level of skill, I need to train and wouldn't put myself in a dangerous condition. On the other hand, how can they tell if someone knows what they are doing beforehand. Additionally, something unexpected could happen. Could a solution be to get an exemption but that wouldn't handle the unexpected. Knowing NY State, there will be some ridiculous fee for that and it would be so onerous that no one would get one.
At what point do you say the risk is managed? I made that decision for myself today and hope to continue to be able to make that decision.
PS: Last year I was swimming there late afternoon on a rainy day with some friends. The lifeguards came over to us and said that they were required to make sure that no one was in the water as they were going off shift. He said that once we were out of the water (that instant) he was going to leave the beach and not look back. If we elected to go back in he wouldn't be aware of that as we were out when he left.