Lifeguard shortage brings changes as swimming pools open

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 10:18 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - Public swimming pools across the St. Louis region are preparing to open for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. Norberto Suarez of St. Charles said his daughter loves to go to the swimming pool in the summer.

“Oh yeah, big time,” he said.

But a lifeguard shortage is forcing some pools to remain closed or limiting the days they’ll be open. Chris Atkinson is the assistant director of parks and recreation in St. Charles.

“I’ve been here for 12 years with the City of St. Charles and this is the first year we’ve had to make a tough decision where it’s going to impact services to the public and our guests,” he said.

Atkinson said the aquatic centers at Wapelhorst and Blanchette parks will open on Saturday and be open 7 days a week. But he said the older, less-used pool at McNair Park will be closed this summer.

In Hazelwood, the lifeguard shortage is forcing a reduction in the number of days the White Birch Bay Aquatic Center will be open. According to Doug Littlefield, parks and recreation superintendent, the aquatic center will only be open on the weekends at the beginning of the summer, after the 3-day Memorial Day weekend.

“We have a lifeguard class that’s just finishing but we believe we’ll be able to add a Friday into that mix. And be open three days out of the week,” he said.

On Saturday, the City of St. Louis will open two of its three swimming pools. They are the pools at Marquette and Fairgrounds parks. They’ll be open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

St. Louis is offering to pay new lifeguards $15 an hour.

St. Louis County will open two of its four public pools this weekend. The pool at the North County Recreation Center and the pool at the Pavilion at Lemay in Jefferson Barracks will open Saturday. The pools at the Kennedy Center Recreation Complex and St. Vincent Community Center will open next weekend.

A spokesman said the county has only hired 60 percent of the lifeguards it normally hires.