There's an extra week to hit Phil's Beach on Bangs Lake
The delayed opening of the renovated Phil's Beach in Wauconda was disappointing, but there is some end-of-the-year cheer for beachgoers as the season has been extended to Sept. 13.
While the coronavirus pandemic delayed the debut of the renovated icon on the west side of Bangs Lake from Memorial Day to early July, it also is playing a role in what has become an extended season.
That's because lifeguards and staff members remain available as high school students study remotely and extracurricular activities are few.
"Our biggest issue, like everybody else, is lifeguard staffing," said Nancy Burton, executive director of the Wauconda Park District.
Weather-dependent hours of operation through Sept. 13 are from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Labor Day hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Fees are $2 for residents and $3 for nonresidents weekdays, and $5 for residents and $7 for nonresidents on weekends and Labor Day. There is no charge for anyone 62 or older and children younger than 3.
COVID-19 distancing guidelines are in place, and beach capacity is limited to 100 users on a first-come, first-served basis.
The park district typically ends the weekday season for its beaches and pools on Aug. 9, shifting to weekends only through Labor Day to coincide with the start of school in Wauconda Unit District 118.
However, that changed after District 118 delayed the start of school to Aug. 24. At that point, the daily beach schedule was extended to Aug. 23 followed by weekends only through Labor Day.
Because its high school staff is learning at home and available after classes, the park district decided to open daily after school and add a week to the season to give kids a break from extended screen time.
Burton said there are two high school- or college-aged American Red Cross certified lifeguards on duty when the beach is open.
"We actually trained some additional staff at the beginning of the season, which helps us at the end of the season." Burton said.
The park district bought the property, known to generations of suburban residents, in 2016 and completed a $3 million renovation this year.
The facility offers a splash pad for youngsters, a shallow swim area, bags game tables, shady grass areas, a boardwalk, gazebo and a plaza with shaded seating.
"Hopefully, it won't be like this next year," Burton said of the fits and starts caused by the coronavirus.