MAINE, USA — A shortage of lifeguards at public pools has forced parks and recreation directors to adjust their hours of operation, as well as find a new approach to recruit workers.
Michael Martin, Brewer Parks and Recreation Director, said this setback is largely due to the pandemic.
"The number of lifeguard classes until this spring had been limited due to the COVID pandemic situation, so it took a little while for those organizations to hold enough classes to certify enough guards," Martin said.
As the state began opening back up in the spring, parks and recreation staff were left scrambling to find eligible lifeguards to staff their pools this summer.
“It definitely has affected us deeply. We have had to close early sometimes," Shawna Rustin, Bangor Parks and Recreation Programmer, said. "Some days we weren’t able to open Dakin (Pool). There’s been sometimes that we’ve had our senior guards and our supervisors stepping in to cover the shifts so we can be open.”
In an effort to combat this shortage, program directors are getting creative to recruit more workers.
“We're offering scholarships to help with certification costs, working with local groups to try to just create interest in being a lifeguard. And the YMCA... we’re so fortunate in this area the YMCA has really stepped up this year offering extra classes, so we’ve worked with them closely trying just to get the word out that we’re still looking for lifeguards,” Martin said.
“We had this deal going on that if you want to become a lifeguard, you go through the class, you get certified, and you work for us this summer, and we’ll actually pay back your lifeguarding course,” Rustin said.
There's still time to get a summer gig as a lifeguard. Martin said if they could find another worker, they could potentially open for some weekend swimming hours.
“We’re still open and taking applications. If we get lucky and find another lifeguard, we would be greatly interested in having them join us," Martin said.
Beth Pancoe Municipal Aquatic Center is open to the public daily 1-4 p.m., and Monday-Friday 6-7:45 p.m. The Bangor Parks and Recreation website says days and hours are subject to change due to staffing.
The Dakin Pool in Bangor is open to the public Monday-Friday 1:00 pm - 4:45 pm, Tuesday-Thursday 6-7:30 p.m., and Saturdays & Sundays 1:00 p.m - 4:30 pm.
The Brewer Municipal Pool is open to the public Monday-Friday 2:30-5:30 pm.