Updated May 23, 2023 - News

Lifeguard shortage will limit local swimming options

Illustration of "Help Wanted" written at the bottom of a pool.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A shortage of lifeguards is causing three Seattle beaches and two pools to close down for the summer.

Why it matters: Only about half of Seattle homes have air conditioning, making access to water an important tool to help people cool off on hot summer days.

By the numbers: Seattle needs 340 trained lifeguards to be fully staffed this summer, Seattle Parks and Recreation spokesperson Rachel Schulkin told Axios.

  • Right now, the city's on track to have about 260 lifeguards — about three-quarters of what's needed.

Details: Because of the staffing shortage, the parks department is closing Magnuson Beach, Seward Park Beach, East Green Lake Beach, and the Queen Anne and Evans pools, Schulkin wrote in an email.

  • Short staffing will also cause the Southwest Pool in West Seattle to have reduced hours.

What they're saying: Schulkin said a competitive labor market for entry-level jobs is contributing to the lifeguard shortage.

  • In addition, the city lost many trained lifeguards during the pandemic, when pools were closed for more than a year.
  • "It takes time to train up an experienced lifeguard staff," Schulkin wrote.

Zoom out: The shortage isn't new — last year, it impacted about a third of more than 300,000 public pools nationwide, according to the American Lifeguard Association.

  • The staffing crunch is predicted to be "just as bad" or "even worse" this summer, the association's director, Bernard Fisher, told Axios Denver.

Between the lines: Seattle Parks and Recreation has raised pay for lifeguards from $19.51 per hour to $21.05 per hour to try and lure more people to the open jobs.

  • The department also pays for the cost of new lifeguards to become certified, Schulkin said.

What's next: Seattleites will still be able to access some swimming spots with lifeguards on duty.

  • Two beaches staffed with lifeguards — West Green Lake Park and Madrona Park — will open to the public on Monday, May 29, which is Memorial Day.
  • Six more will open Saturday, June 24.

Of note: You can learn more about becoming a lifeguard on the city's website.


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