POPHAM BEACH, Maine — Maine State Parks are trying to combat one of the worst lifeguard shortages in recent years by raising starting pay to more than $15 an hour.
The pay raise is a bump of more than 25 percent, from about $11/hour for lifeguards to $14.71/hour and from about $12/hour to $15.44 an hour for lifeguard supervisors.
Currently, Reid State Park in Georgetown has no lifeguards, according to Lifeguard Coordinator Sean Vaillancourt.
“It’s one of the more dangerous beaches in the state,” Vaillancourt said. “This is the worst year I’ve ever seen. People just aren’t applying.”
Without lifeguards, state parks have to resort to a "swim at your own risk" policy, according to Vaillancourt.
"If someone's distressed, it takes a whole team of people to help them, get them out of the water, and make sure they stay safe," said Vaillancourt. "the more lifeguards we can have, the more we can ensure that the public is safe."
According to Vaillancourt, there were 25 open positions as of Wednesday:
Reid State Park: 7
Sebago Lake State Park: 5
Range Pond State Park: 4
Popham Beach State Park: 1
Mt. Blue State Park: 2
Ferry Beach State Park: 2
Damariscotta Lake State Park: 2
Swan Lake State Park: 2
Vaillancourt said he hopes the pay raise will draw more applicants. They are looking for about 50 lifeguards for the Maine State Parks. He said they willing to do “job shares,” where two people split a 40-hour per week position.
He said they can also reimburse lifeguards for the cost of their certification. Vaillancourt can also recertify any lifeguard trained by the American Red Cross whose certifications expire this summer.