Lifeguard staffing up slightly this year, but there’s still a shortage

Lifeguard shortage
Lifeguard shortage(25 News / Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 6:00 PM CDT
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PEKIN (25News Now) - Public pools across the nation and in Central Illinois have struggled to find lifeguards for the past few years, but some have had more success than others.

Pekin park leaders say there was a staffing shortage last year at DragonLand Water Park, which made it hard to stay open.

They’re slightly understaffed this year with 24 lifeguards, but they’d like to have 28.

The director said the cost to become certified as a lifeguard complicates matters.

“We don’t want there to be a barrier for that employment,” said Pekin Park District Executive Director Shawn Powers.

“We want to make sure we’re getting the best people who are interested in being lifeguards to come in. So, we take care of all the costs for training,” Powers said.

Peoria Park District leaders said there is always a shortage. Right now, Peoria has about 35 lifeguards for three swimming pools: two outdoors and one at the RiverPlex. Fully staffed, there should be 50 lifeguards.

Executive Director Emily Cahill said since the RiverPlex is undergoing maintenance at its pools, lifeguards will move to the outdoor pools, but park staffers said they will not be open every day.

“We are operating on a five-day schedule instead of seven, to try to maximize those safe opportunities for people to swim, and make sure that we have enough staff on-site to be able to support that and support our patrons,” said Cahill.

Cahill said Peoria Park District offers $17 per hour wages and free access to the pool for part-time employees. Proctor Recreation Center and Gwynn Family Aquatic Center will open on June 5.

25News spoke with Washington Park Pool on how they’ve adapted to the shortage.

At the Washington Park Pool, Director Brian Tibbs said there isn’t a shortage now because of efforts to train lifeguards within the district.

Tibbs added that they are excited about the pool’s seasonal opening on Thursday.