Lifeguard shortage keeps Easthampton pool closed for third year in a row

The Easthampton Parks and Recreation Department was not able to find the 5 to 8 lifeguards they needed to open up for the season.
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 5:04 PM EDT
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EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Amid an expected heat wave, one local community is without a pool for the third summer in a row.

The Easthampton Parks and Recreation Department was not able to find the 5 to 8 lifeguards they needed to open up for the season.

Kids can cool off at the splash pad at Easthampton’s Nonotuck Park, but some of them have been eyeing the nearby pool, which remains bone dry.

“We were curious as to why,” said Sarah Bertrand of Easthampton. “We didn’t know why, and yeah, we were pretty shocked that it was closed because the kids love this.”

Easthampton Parks and Recreation said it all comes down to a lifeguard shortage. The pool was set to open June 25th, but 5 days later, it was announced that there were not enough employees to open.

Bertrand said that it is a shame for local families.

“Not everybody has pools, you know what I mean,” she said. “This is a very convenient place for people to come and cool off and everything.”

Director of Parks and Recreation John Mason was in meetings and unable to speak with us, but a parks employee told us that it is too late in the season for the pool to open. It takes about 17 days to fill and prepare the pool.

When Western Mass News checked in with Mason in April, he said he was trying to fill up to 8 positions. Lifeguards have to be at least 16 years of age, and the jobs paid 16 dollars an hour. The city reimburses lifeguards for their certification course.

Matthew McMahon of Easthampton was perplexed by the fact that they could not fill the jobs in time.

“Normally, what they do is they hire the high school students in the summer,” he told us. “So yeah, it was a little weird that there were not enough high school students to police the pool.”

The American Lifeguard Association said the shortage is affecting about a third of the country’s public pools. They cited the pandemic canceling lifeguard certification classes, and lifeguards finding new, higher paying jobs when pools were closed as the reasons why.

“I think it’s a great starting job for high schoolers who want to get their feet in the door as far as working, and you get to sit outside the pool all day long,” McMahon said. “What can be better than that?”

In the meantime, the father of three is making the most of the splash pad, which is open daily 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“It’s great to come out with my family, a couple friends, a couple Lunchables, and water bottles, and just hang out,” McMahon said.

Late last month, the city council signed a letter of support for proposed upgrades to the pool, including making it more accessible to those with disabilities. The work would happen over the next 6 years.