On March 13, 2018, the East Bay Regional Park District received the Innovative Programming Award from the California Parks & Recreation Society Aquatic Section for its “Vamos a Aprender” (Let’s Go Learn) water safety program. Located at Del Valle and Shadow Cliffs, the program aims to increase water safety practices and assist Spanish speaking children with life jackets.
Vamos a Aprender was created in 2015 to provide free water safety education to children, ages 7-15 who visited Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore, CA. Bilingual lifeguards provide participants with a 45-minute water safety program in Spanish, teaching basic water safety with a focus on proper life jacket usage.
“The program began with a focus on the Hispanic population that visits Lake Del Valle on peak summer season weekends,” said Park District Aquatic Manager Pete DeQuincy. “We realized we had a lot of patrons visiting the park who were not water confident, and this helped us address that.”
Funded by the Regional Park Foundation, Vamos a Aprender provides enthusiastic bilingual lifeguards and a professional training area to learn water safety. Participants receive free wristbands, coloring books, and a life jacket.
Each year as part of the program, lifeguards ask park visitors if their children can participate in a water safety demonstration. They teach best practices around water and explain how to use life jackets.
The program has been highly successful, and by 2016, program participants doubled in size to 600 children. In 2017, the program expanded to Shadow Cliffs in Pleasanton and grew to 1,000 total participants.
According to DeQuincy, the program has made a visible impact. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in people using safer water practices, and wearing the life jackets we’ve provided.”
Children also leave with valuable lifesaving safety tips and a lifetime of useful information that can be used at other swimming areas.
“The Park District’s Aquatics Division is very successful in preventing near-drowning incidents at our parks because of creative programming like Vamos a Aprender,” said Dennis Waespi, Board President of East Bay Regional Park District. “Enjoying your regional parks safely is our priority.”
“The Park District is well known for its outstanding lifeguard and aquatics program,” said Robert Doyle, General Manager. Annually, over 800,000 use the regional parks lake and water facilities without incident, thanks to the Park District’s well trained lifeguards.
The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco Bay, established in 1934. The system comprises 121,000 acres in 73 parks including over 1,250 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.
Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor