Summer is quickly approaching, but pools, beaches and water parks across Maine are struggling to fill their lifeguard chairs.
For the third summer in a row, Portland will not be opening its Reiki Pool to the public.
“Just staffing-wise, I used to have probably 30 to 40 people working under me,” Portland Aquatic Supervisor Colleen LePage said. “By this time of year, I have maybe 15 or 20 regular people.”
Riverton Pool will offer limited programs and hours for lap and open swims. Its waitlist includes at least 40 families looking for lessons, but there is hope.
“We’ve tried to offer a couple of lifeguarding classes and they didn’t fill,” LePage said. “We do have one coming up starting this weekend, and it is close to full and this is the first time I’ve seen it this close to full since the pandemic hit.”
Funtown Splashtown USA Manager Cory Hutchinson remembers a time when they were turning lifeguards away.
“Why there has been a drop off, I really can’t tell you,” Hutchinson said. “The majority of the kids that we’ve had in the past, maybe 10 years ago, we’re all swim team kids from the local swim teams.”
This will be Splashtown’s second year offering its own lifeguard class for free. Hutchinson said it’s working. He now only has 10 lifeguard positions left to fill.
“We feel that that’s money well spent for us to ensure that we’re able to operate the park fully with the full capacity of lifeguards that we need,” Hutchinson said.
Until she sees Portland’s class turnout, LePage said she must limit its pool hours to retain the people they do have.
“Because if we’re working extra hours, that also means that we’re tired on the stand and that’s not a safe situation,” LePage said.