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For Immediate Release

Vamos a Nadar celebrates 20 years of water safety education

Santa Rosa, CA | March 04, 2024


Sonoma County Regional Parks’ Vamos a Nadar (Let’s go Swimming) celebrates 20 years of teaching young kids and families to be safe around water.

Designed to reduce drowning deaths in along the Russian River, Vamos a Nadar has reached more than 3,000 young people in Sonoma County since launching in 2004. The 2024 schedule is now available and parents can register at

Regional Parks lifeguards, local pools and swim instructors collaborate to present the free bilingual program for families with children 5 to 18. The initial workshop educates both parents and children on how to be safe and aware around water. Each family also receives a coupon for additional swim lessons at the local pools involved in the program for a reduced price of $15.

“Our goal for the program is for families and individuals to feel comfortable enjoying the summer and being able to splash in the water to cool off,” said Andrew Traverso, Regional Parks’ recreation program coordinator. “Our main message is don’t be afraid of the water: learn water safety and learn to swim.”

Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker was an aquatics specialist 20 years ago. “For years, there were 12 to 15 drowning deaths each summer along the Russian River,” he described. “According to information from the coroner’s office, the deaths were primarily 18- to 24-year-old Latino males who didn’t know how to swim.”

At that point, safety measures were “… Band-aid stuff,” Whitaker said. “We put up signs and distributed safety information to families in both English and Spanish. But warning signs are only effective if someone reads, and heeds, the signs.”

It was time to try to create lasting change.

“We needed to ‘normalize’ learning how to swim, how to be safe around the water – both in pools and open water,” said Rosiris Guerra, Red Cross and one of the founding members of Vamos a Nadar. “Learning to swim should be viewed as a life skill. If we can teach people to swim at a young age, if we can educate adults about how to be safe around water, then we can affect change on the generational level. It’s the only solution that makes sense.”

In one of the first multi-organization task forces in Sonoma County, Parks partnered with the Red Cross and the county health department to create a solution for the drownings, which had become a health crisis.

“The health department provided water safety information in Spanish and English to its partner non-profit clinics to distribute to their clients,” Whitaker said. “It doesn’t sound like much today but, 20 years ago, this kind of collaboration wasn’t happening.”

The first Vamos a Nadar event took place at Finley Swim Center in Santa Rosa. Soon after, Ives Pool in Sebastopol joined. Partners now include the municipalities of Windsor, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, as well as swim organizations Sonoma Splash and the YMCA.

“Vamos a Nadar started a ‘wave’ (pun intended) of water safety,” said Greg Desmond, aquatics supervisor at Regional Parks. “Since it began, we’ve added our life jacket loaner program at several river parks; two lifeguarded open water swim areas (Spring Lake Regional Park swimming lagoon and Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach); and the river patrol, a roving team of lifeguards who visit several beaches Fridays through Mondays during the summer months.”

The next step in water safety is to focus on new swimmers of all ages. Regional Parks will be rolling out a new program, similar to its Junior Lifeguard Camp, that will focus on new swimmers.  Also, the team has applied for a grant that will expand Vamos a Nadar to allow adults to sign up for beginning swim classes at a reduced price.

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Media Contact:
Tina Luster, Marketing Specialist
Sonoma County Regional Parks

Sonoma County Regional Parks provides essential opportunities for people to connect with nature. We contribute to the vibrancy and well-being of our community by expanding access to recreation experiences, serving as responsible stewards of cultural and natural resources, and ensuring that our parks are clean, safe and welcoming. Learn more at