Lifeguards in demand at Denver metro-area pools as Colorado issues grants
The summer season is about to sizzle and the lifeguard pool in the metro area is in need of a big splash: Lifeguards are in demand.
In Wheat Ridge, a current lack of lifeguards means two indoor pools will remain closed as the city courts applicants by offering bonuses and becoming creative in getting the word out — “Dive in, become a Lifeguard!”
Wheat Ridge police on May 30 took to the pool and Twitter in an effort to help the city attract lifeguards. Officers, in uniform, not swimwear, described the lack of lifeguards as “desperate.”
“We’re having problems recruiting, as is most everyone in our region,” said Amanda Harrison, a Wheat Ridge spokesperson.
Anderson Pool, the city’s outdoor pool, opened May 27, but two indoor pools, located at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center, are closed because of the lifeguard shortage.
Wheat Ridge currently has about 40 lifeguards on staff, mostly part-time staff, and the city is looking to hire another 50. To attract new lifeguards, Wheat Ridge is offering a $300 signing bonus, and an additional $100 bonus at the end of the summer season. Hourly starting pay is $17.50. A free pass to city recreation and parks facilities is also part of the offer.
“We are trying unique approaches to get people’s attention,” Harrison said.
Lifeguard ranks were severely cut across the nation during the start and height of the COVID-19 pandemic. A nationwide labor shortage also impacts lifeguard staffing, and subsequently pool schedules and openings.
Nationwide, there are more than 309,000 public pools, with about 50% impacted with reduced hours or closures because of lifeguard shortages, Wyatt Werneth, spokesperson for the American Lifeguard Association, told NPR.org.
A lack of lifeguards can lead to fatal consequences, Juliana Kim, of NPR, reports. According to the CDC, for children ages 5 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death, mainly in pools, lakes, rivers or oceans.
In Colorado, officials have noticed the dearth in lifeguards and have made grants available to underwrite lifeguard training fees in an effort to boost applicants and aid local governments.
“We are making a splash with this exciting support for lifeguards, part of our ongoing work to make sure that pools can safely open earlier, expand hours, and stay open longer this summer,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a May 30 news release. “We are thrilled that so many local governments across the state applied for this funding so that families, friends, and neighbors can dive right into the summer.”
The Department of Local Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment are part of the $258,000 grant initiative. Minimum grant requests were $1,000; some entities, including Aurora and Boulder, were awarded $10,700.
In Boulder, the city has hired 180 lifeguards to staff two indoor and two outdoor pools, said Jonathan Thornton, a communications program manager, in a written statement.
Boulder’s Scott Carpenter Pool opened May 1 for lap lane swimming and leisure pool features followed on May 27, Thornton said.
“Our variety of recruitment efforts, such as our hiring campaign, word of mouth, and local hiring fairs, have allowed us to provide a level of service at our pools that is the highest since the pandemic,” Thornton said. “We’re very excited for our passionate swimming community to come out to any of our pools and enjoy.”
In Denver, officials are looking for about 40 lifeguards to fill positions in the Barnum, La Alma, Garfield and Curtis Park pools, said Cynthia Karvaski, a Denver Parks and Recreation marketing specialist.
Denver hires lifeguards year-round and the city provides free American Red Cross lifeguard training to committed candidates. The hourly pay is $17.29. Qualified Denver lifeguards can be as young as 15.
“Lifeguard positions continue to be difficult to fill and we are always seeking qualified candidates,” Karvaski said. “By providing training free of cost and ample opportunity to receive certification, we’re hopeful that we can continue last year’s momentum into this summer.”
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