WARSAW — Local residents may have noticed the modified beach schedule this summer, with signs posted two to three days each week indicating that beachgoers must swim at their own risk.
“Lifeguards are at an all time low,” said Warsaw Parks & Recreation Superintendent Larry Plummer. “We normally staff 12 to 14 lifeguards, but this year we have half that many. This is a national problem as well as a local problem.”
‘Due to the shortage, we have adjusted our life-guarding schedule and were forced to have a couple days a week where lifeguards aren’t present,” Plummer stated, adding that park patrons seem to be adjusting to the unfortunate situation well.
It isn’t just beaches being affected by the lifeguard situation. Parks, recreation departments and YMCA facilities across the country are reporting a shortage of lifeguards. With headlines plastered across the country proclaiming “Filling The Lifeguard Shortage: 445 Lifeguards Still Needed For Summer,” “Beaches Scramble To Find Lifeguards” and “Lifeguard Shortage May Prompt City Beach Changes,” many are wondering what led to this scarcity. After all, landing a summer position as a lifeguard used to be a coveted gig.
It has been pointed out that the wage of a retail worker is similar to that of a lifeguard, although lifeguards require more training and have greater responsibility. Unlike other minimum wage jobs, lifeguard applicants are often required to attend training, which involves a fee, and to possess CPR certification, a first aid certificate and an American Red Cross lifesaving/lifeguarding certificate.
“We have seen somewhat of a decrease in available lifeguards this year, but in general our community seems to have a shortage of available employees as a whole,” said Steven Kuhn, Parkview Warsaw YMCA Director of Aquatics and Inclusive Programming. “Having said that, we have still been able to keep our lifeguard schedule fully staffed.”
Plummer stated that the Warsaw Parks & Recreation Department has struggled to find seasonal maintenance staff as well.
“Normally we are fully staffed by late March, but it was late April this year,” Plummer reported. “With so many job opportunities everywhere and higher wages available, it’s a struggle for municipalities to find help.”
“Jobs are plentiful in our city,” Plummer said, “so we have to find people with interest and passion for parks and recreation and do the best we can to retain them.”