Swimming and Swim Lessons: An Integral part of LSSP History
The official opening of Lake Sammamish State Park was July 27, 1952. Picnicking and swimming began earlier that month, however, and the first drowning — of a 6-year-old girl— happened in those early weeks.
Retired Park Ranger Richard Benson outlines the park’s role in swimming safety in his park history notes:
It didn’t take long for the community to take advantage of the new park and the recreational opportunities it provided. Red Cross swimming and lifeguard lessons began at the beach in 1953. Swimming lessons had been occurring at Vasa park, Pine Lake and sometimes at Alexander’s Beach, but since those first lessons in 1953, they mostly took place at the state park until the Issaquah Pool opened in the early 1970s.
Two hundred fifty swimmers signed up that first year. School buses were used to pick up kids around town and bring them to the park. More than 600 swimmers took lessons at the park in some years.
In 1956, the Sunset beach and picnic area was enlarged to meet the growing demand and a bathhouse with concession stand was built.
With more swimmers, safety became a concern and the first two lifeguards were hired in 1955. The program ended in 1992, other than a two-year “pilot” program between then and now. In the later years of the lifeguard program, there were as many as 13 guards overseeing the two large swim beaches.