Lake Country beaches see shortage of lifeguards for 2022 summer

·3 min read
Pewaukee Beach will be "swim at your own risk" for summer 2022.
Pewaukee Beach will be "swim at your own risk" for summer 2022.

Some area beaches will be without lifeguards this summer.

Pewaukee Beach is one of a number in the county that will be "swim at your own risk" because of a shortage of applicants, according to Monica Kaskey, director of recreation for the city of Pewaukee.

"We’ve seen challenges with all of our seasonal staff," Kaskey said. "We have always struggled with lifeguards. It takes additional certification, and it also seems like we have a lot of competition from retail and food services. We also don’t have a pool at the high school. Our swim team competes at other schools. So it’s been tougher for us, overall.”

Kaskey said  she was only able to conduct three interviews for lifeguard positions this year. Two others were reached out to about interviews but never responded.

Ideally, the beach requires at least eight or nine lifeguards for a season. Three people work each shift unless there is inclement weather. They take breaks for 20 minutes every hour to get a break from the sun, but one lifeguard is always scanning the water between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pay is $13-$15 per hour.

"There is definitely more of a concern when you staff the beach minimally rather than appropriately," Kaskey said. "It gives a false sense of security to people. That’s why we need to staff three lifeguards at a time and have enough for the season."

More: Waukesha County beaches will open this weekend with no lifeguards on duty

Kaskey said staffing shortages have affected many of the seasonal opportunities offered by the city, like camps and sports. Availability is a big reason, she said, stating that staffing camps has taken more people with fewer shifts than in the past, with fewer people taking more shifts.

It is possible that if enough lifeguards applied, there could be lifeguards stationed at Pewaukee Beach this summer. However, that will not be the case to start the season Memorial Day weekend.

As always when there are no lifeguards on duty, signs will be posted at the beach.

“We understand that safety is a concern,” Kaskey said. “We request that if utilizing the beach, please make sure that if you have a low-level swimmer, make sure they’re being watched by a parent or guardian or a high-level swimmer nearby and to make sure you’re a strong swimmer if you’re going to swim in the lake."

Elsewhere in Lake Country, city of Oconomowoc's beaches City Beach and Bender Beach will be staffed with lifeguards for the 2022 season.

"I sympathize for the facilities that must close or revert to 'swim at your own risk' and hope that the lifeguard shortage takes a turn soon," said Oconomowoc city recreation manager Jennifer Froemming. "As someone that began their career as a lifeguard over 30 years ago, it is a great summer job, and as a manager, I work hard to ensure working at our beach is a place where our team wants to be, so they return year after year."

Froemming said she has seen a shortage of lifeguard applications over the years as well.

"Unfortunately, like others, we are seeing a nationwide lifeguard shortage affecting facilities, and it becomes more and more challenging each year," she said in an email. "We continue to work hard to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for Oconomowoc families and have been able to hang in there staffing our beach for the season."

A shortage in lifeguards is a national trend. Waukesha County will have six county beaches that are "swim at your own risk" this summer. They are Fox Brook Park, Menomonee Park, Minooka Park, Mukwonago Park, Muskego Park and Naga-Waukee Park. The latter four have been without lifeguards for several years.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Lake Country beaches see shortage of lifeguards for 2022 summer