KNOW A LIFEGUARD? Recreation Department Is 5 Lifeguards Short To Open Town Beach Full-Time This Summer, But Remain Cautiously Optimistic

WILMINGTON, MA — At this week’s Wilmington Select Board meeting, Recreation Director Karen Campbell provided a cautiously optimistic update on her department’s extensive efforts to recruit lifeguards for the 2022 Town Beach season.

“We currently have 7 lifeguards. I would love to operate with 15 to 18 lifeguards,” said Campbell. “Last summer, we operated with just 11… It was very touch and go, and very difficult on busy days… The beach needs to have a guard for every 15 people in the water to meet Red Cross safety standards…. And guards can only watch the water for 30 minutes at time — they’re 30 minutes on, then 30 minutes off, when they’re assigned other duties.”

Campbell noted last summer was a bit of an anomaly as the beach closed often due to a large family of geese that created bacterial issues for the lake. The weather was also unusually rainy and cold, resulting in several weather-related closures. Campbell believes more than 11 lifeguards will be needed this summer.

Campbell stressed that the shortage of lifeguards is a trend at the national, state and local level. She pointed to two primary factors: (1) the numbers of high school and college kids looking for positions have decreased, and (2) there were very few certification opportunities during COVID-19 as many pools, ponds and lakes were shut down.

“Karen and her staff have gone to all ends to get people to sign on,” added Town Manager Jeff Hull.

Campbell detailed her recruiting efforts, including:

  • advertising the job listing, starting in January, on the Town’s website, the Massachusetts Recreation and Parks Association’s employment website, on social media, on the Wilmington Apple, and at Town Hall
  • advertising the job listing with the WHS Athletic Director and Swim coaches
  • advertising the job listing at the Burbank YMCA, the Lowell YMCA, St. John’s Prep, and the Shawsheen Tech
  • networking with other local Recreation Departments at regional Aquatics meetings
  • publicizing in the Winter, Spring & Summer Recreation Department newsletters

“I’m optimistic we’re getting closer and won’t have to do anything drastic. By early June, I think we’ll have more responses to our postings. If we can get a handful more of lifeguards, we’re going to be in good shape,” said Campbell. 

Campbell is developing contingency plans if 12 or more lifeguards can’t be secured, including potentially reducing the beach hours from 10am to 6pm to 11am to 5pm. She referred to “swim at your own risk” as the “worse idea in the world,” noting the beach would have “real issues” without gate attendants and lifeguards on duty. Campbell noted some Massachusetts communities have already decided to cut the numbers of days their pools or beaches are open, or close them all together this summer, due to lifeguard shortages.

The upcoming Town Beach season is slated to run from June 11 through August 8. An orientation for lifeguards and other beach staff will be held from June 9 through June 11, but Campbell stressed lifeguards will be hired after June 11 if they apply and meet the town’s qualifications.

Lifeguard positions begin at $16.25 an hour. The job listing can be found HERE.

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