May 31, 2022 - News

Denver's outdoor pool season delayed due to lifeguard shortage

Children play at the outdoor pool at Mestizo-Curtis park in Denver.
Children play at the Meztiso-Curtis Park Outdoor Pool in Denver. Photo: Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

For the second summer in a row, a severe lifeguard shortage in the Denver metro area is delaying public pool openings and limiting hours of operation.

Why it matters: Pools offer a reprieve from the scorching heat, and city leaders have said rec centers can help young people stay busy and safe amid what's predicted to be a violent summer.

Details: Five indoor pools across Denver — Ashland, Central Park, Scheitler, Twentieth Street and Washington Park — will be temporarily closed because the city’s parks and rec department has less than half the necessary lifeguards to operate all 30 pools at full capacity.

  • Other pools, including at Montclair Recreation Center and La Alma Lincoln Park, remain closed for maintenance and repairs.

What they're saying: The city said it chose the five indoor pools to temporarily close based on several factors including equity, usage and proximity to other pools.

  • The closures will allow the parks department to focus on outdoor pool operations.

Of note: Denver's outdoor pool season officially starts June 13 to give time for extra lifeguard certification classes. The season usually kicks off June 6, city parks and recreation spokesperson Cyndi Karvaski told Axios Denver.

Zoom out: Other metro-area pools are opening for the summer season with restrictions:

  • Aurora's six public outdoor pools have opened with limited hours due to staffing shortages.
  • And in Boulder, the Scott Carpenter Pool opened its full summer schedule Tuesday — but the Spruce Pool will be closed this summer because the city was only able to hire 90 of the 140 lifeguards needed for "ideal" operations.

The big picture: Across the country, cities including Austin, Chicago, Philadelphia and the Twin Cities are facing similar lifeguard deficits.

  • The guard shortage could prevent about a third of more than 300,000 public pools nationwide from opening, per the American Lifeguard Association.
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