Minneapolis reduces number of beaches with lifeguards due to staffing shortage

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board doesn’t have enough lifeguards, so starting Friday it’s reducing the number of beaches with lifeguards from five to three.

Lifeguards will remain on duty at Thomas Beach at Bde Maka Ska, the main beach at Lake Nokomis and at Wirth Beach through Labor Day.

The Cedar Lake East and Lake Harriet North beaches will no longer have them, said Park Board spokeswoman Robin Smothers.

The Park Board had already scaled back lifeguard services this year because of the coronavirus. In a normal year, lifeguards are posted at eight of the Park Board’s 12 beaches. But the board was only able to hire enough lifeguards to staff five beaches this year. Lifeguard services also began a month later than normal, too, on July 2.

“We have been trying to recruit all summer,” Smothers said.

Earlier this week, the Park Board posted on its Facebook page that “we’re still hiring qualified lifeguards this summer! Help us spread the word and help everyone enjoy Minneapolis beaches safely.”

On Friday, Smothers said the Park Board made the decision to consolidate to three beaches because it was no longer feasible to bring on additional staff.

“It would take too long to hire, train and certify new lifeguards,” Smothers said. “By then the season would be over.”

Lifeguard service usually ends in mid-August when many on the staff head back to school.

Smothers said it’s unfortunate that two beaches will go unstaffed a few weeks earlier than normal. She noted that with the recent run of hot weather beaches have “been very popular.”

The Park Board has six full-time lifeguards who work year round, including through the winter at the city’s indoor aquatic’s center. The board generally hires up to 130 additional seasonal lifeguards to staff its beaches and pools. This year it hired only 19.

Seasonal licensed lifeguards must be recertified each year through organizations such as the Red Cross. While the Red Cross offered 120-day extensions to certified lifeguards, other organizations didn’t offer recertification programs this spring with the onset of COVID-19. That meant it was tough to find lifeguards, Smothers said.

“We would have hired more,” Smothers said.

Of the 19 hired, nine have left, leaving the Park Board shorthanded, Smothers said.

“While we are disappointed that we cannot continue lifeguard services at all five beaches through mid-August as we would in a typical year, we are grateful to have enough staff to guard three beaches,” said Tyrize Cox, assistant superintendent of recreation.

Lifeguards will be on duty from noon to 7 p.m. daily at the three beaches, and will stay until 8 p.m. if the temperature is 85 degrees or higher at 6 p.m., the Park Board said.


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