HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) — The unofficial start to summer is just about here, but several central Ohio communities do not have enough lifeguards to keep all of their pools open.
Communities have increased pay and are offering other incentives, but the push to hire more lifeguards continues to face an uphill battle.
“It’s been difficult; we have been struggling to get the adequate amount of staff we need,” Anastasia Bradley, aquatics supervisor at Hilliard Recreation & Parks Department, said. “We open this weekend, so we’re really excited about it, but we just haven’t been able to get the amount of staff we need to open everything.”
Bradley began her career there has a lifeguard — the very position she is now trying to fill.
“I always say, ‘I loved my job so much I never left.’ Obviously working here as a teenager had such an impact on me that I made it my full-time career,” she said. “Obviously that’s not going to be the case for everybody, but I think the skills I gained here are not skills I could have gained anywhere else.”
The main pool at Hilliard’s Municipal Park will be open as the season begins. But Bradley said the lap pool, lazy river, slide pool and interactive pool will remain closed because there are not enough lifeguards.
“It’s a bummer,” Bradley said. “We wish we could provide every single amenity to our community. We’re really excited about having all those amenities, but the most important thing to us is safety. If we don’t have the adequate amount of people, that means we can’t make sure everybody is safe.”
Bradley said her department has done more recruiting this year than in any other year. They’ve increased pay and are now offering interview incentives as they continue to hire.
Hilliard is not alone in dealing with these challenges. Westerville is struggling to boost its staff and continues to hire applicants. Aquatics manager Bill Plessinger said the indoor pool will be closed this Sunday so they can focus the resources they do have on the outdoor pools.
“Like everybody else, if we don’t have enough lifeguards, we have to shut down pools because we’re not going to open up a pool if we know it’s not going to be safe,” Plessinger said. “Some pools require one guard. Some pools like our leisure pool, it requires upwards of four lifeguards.”
The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department is also still hiring lifeguards, as Dodge, Driving Park, and Tuttle pools will all open Memorial Day weekend.
A spokesperson for the department said they plan to open all pools this summer and release a schedule once there is a more final number on lifeguards.