WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Recreation Director Karen Campbell recently provided the Wilmington Recreation Commissioners with a report on the Town Beach season, which ran from June 8, 2019 to August 11, 2019.
Town Beach Makes Best Of Bad Situation Beyond Its Control
“There’s been a happy family of geese living in the middle of the lake. They had many babies. And their babies can’t fly yet,” began Campbell. “That, coupled with very high temperatures at the end of July for many days in a row with no rain at all, created a perfect storm for high bacteria testing…. It’s nature.”
Swimming was prohibited from August 1, 2019 until August 16, 2019 as a result of the testing. (While the beach season officially closed on August 11, visitors are typically still able to access the beach and swim at their own risk without lifeguards on duty.) Campbell noted the Town’s Annual Police Beach Day did proceed on August 1, but beachgoers weren’t allowed in the water.
Campbell stressed that Silver Lake wasn’t alone in confronting these issues — most lakes and ponds in the surrounding area had similar bacteria problems that resulted in closures.
Campbell believed this was the Wilmington’s first significant beach closure in 12 years. After discussing matters with Campbell, Town Manager Jeff Hull did ultimately decide to keep the beach open while the swimming ban was in effect.
“In the past, we had always closed the beach completely [when swimming was prohibited due to high bacteria tests], but this summer we decided to keep the beach open for those who wanted to go but not swim… I think it was the right call,” explained Campbell. “The bathhouse was available. We had a skeleton crew of lifeguards, but it allowed those lifeguards who really wanted hours to get them to an extent. And hopefully we don’t lose those lifeguards next year if they think we can’t guarantee them shifts.”
Lifeguard Situation Drastically Improves
The Recreation Department was able to find 19 lifeguards, up from last summer’s total of 14.
“We took a multi-multi-multi pronged approach to recruiting lifeguards. We went everywhere I could possibly think of,” explained Campbell. “We started in December. We tried to inundate social media, every surrounding pool, and every training course. The high school had just started a swim team, so I was in contact with the Athletic Director and coach. All of those things helped.”
Campbell noted the town does pay lifeguards above minimum wage ($12) because they do need certification. Starting lifeguards begin at $14, while senior lifeguards begin at $16.
“I think we’re paying well, not amazing, but well, and that’s an attraction to recruits,” added Campbell. Another attractive element, according to Campbell, is the fact that it’s an outdoor position — something she thinks interest some lifeguards that regularly work inside at YMCA indoor pools.
Capacity Issues Practically Non-Existent; Fees For Out-Of-Towners Will Remain
“It’s a beautiful little beach. And it’s something we can all be proud of,” stressed Campbell. “For the most part, it was nice and quiet all summer. I think a lot of people now understand that the rules are the rules. They aren’t going to change and they won’t be ‘special’ for certain people. So, if you want to go to the beach, and you don’t live in Wilmington, there’s a $10 fee to pay. And I think a lot of out-of-towners have decided not to come and that’s OK because it’s made for a nice, quiet beautiful beach for Wilmington residents to enjoy.”
Campbell noted the beach reached capacity on just two brief occasions all summer, a vast improvement from recent years.
“There’s always a few people who are unhappy, but there were really no major complaints this summer… We certainly understand that a family of five from out-of-town can’t spend $50 to come to the beach everyday,” said Campbell. “But every year the complaints get fewer and fewer as we’re getting further and further away from 2014 when we set all the new rules.”
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