Lifeguard shortage forces pools and beaches to close for the summer

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WATKINS GLEN, NY (WETM) – A nationwide lifeguard shortage has forced a lot of pools and beaches to completely close for the summer. Seneca Lake State Park beach in Watkins Glen was one of them with only two applicants for this year.

Seneca Lake State Park beach has been open for decades and is used to seven to nine lifeguards on staff. Many lifeguards could not get certified for the summer social distancing rules. Certification classes could not run safely under the COVID guidelines, and when they did, it was very late for this upcoming summer season.

A decline in lifeguards had been escalating pre-COVID. But the pandemic and the issue of not being able to get certified sharpened this decline. Young adults have been pushed to get a head start on their careers and will opt for internships instead.

However, this was not the case at Seneca Lake State Park beach. According to Watkins Glen Park and Event Center manager, Craig Bond, lifeguards there were always eager to come back.

“We pay our lifeguards really well…Minimum wage is at $12.50, and some of our guards get $17 to $20 an hour,” said Bond.

The internships that many young adults choose to go for pay much less than that hourly rate at Watkins Glen. Bond says that if students can get certified early this year, he is hopeful for next summer, where the beach will be open again.

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