When Molly Knowland decided to take her 4-year-old daughter swimming last week, she made sure, as she always does, to bring a life jacket. But, when they tried to get in the water they were told the life jacket couldn't come with them.
"I was totally shocked," she said. "My mouth fell open and I said what do you mean you don't allow life jackets?"
In Erie County, three beaches on Lake Erie don't allow life jackets or floatation devices of any kind. Lake Erie Beach and Evans Town Park Beach, both operated by the Town of Evans, ban life jackets of any kind. According to the town, the jackets can cause problems for life guards trying to treat a neck or back injury. The vests can also slow down life guards trying to perform CPR.
Bennet Beach, operated by Erie County, also bans life jackets, according to the park's website.
"I feel as a parent, I have a right to protect my children," Knowland said. "I don't really care if anybody else wants to put their kid in a life jacket, but if I want to put my kid in a life jacket I should have that right."
As for other area beaches, Woodlawn Beach in Hamburg and Green Lake Beach in Orchard Park both allow U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. Most beaches operated by New York State also allow USCG approved life jackets, although some state beaches on Long Island also ban life jackets altogether.
Knowland wants to see the rules changed to allow life jackets at all local beaches. She started a Change.org petition you can find here.
"Telling a kid they can swim in a lake without a life jacket is kind of like telling them they can ride their bike without a helmet," Knowland said. "Maybe they'll be okay, but maybe they won't."