Jun 9, 2021 - Sports

Why many Minneapolis beaches, pools lack lifeguards this summer

An empty lifeguard chair at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

Lake Harriet is one of several Minneapolis-area beaches that won't have life guards this summer. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

People flocking to beaches and pools during this early summer heat wave are finding lots of empty lifeguard chairs.

What's happening: Pandemic-related closures at aquatic centers led to a slowdown in the training of new lifeguards, and the backlog comes as many summer-oriented businesses are forced to compete for workers.

Why it matters: Without lifeguards for parts of last summer, Minnesota saw a rise in drownings and near-drownings. Last year, 49 people died in non-boating drownings in the state, the most since 2011, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The state of play: The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board usually hires 170 lifeguards, but has only been able to hire 75 this year, spokeswoman Robin Smothers said.

  • As a result, just three out of 12 city beaches are being guarded — Lake Nokomis Main Beach, Wirth Lake Beach and, starting Friday, Cedar Lake Point Beach.
  • Three Rivers Park District has kept its pools guarded, but is hiring "Life Guards in Training” who get certified as part of their employment, Knisely said.

Several Life Time clubs in the Twin Cities are short of lifeguards as well, said Layne Clatterbuck, the fitness center company's regional aquatics manager in Minnesota.

  • Clubs that previously had 30 to 40 guards now have 15 to 20.
  • Life Time is trying to hire more and considering upping its wages and offering hiring and/or retention bonuses, Clatterbuck said.

Of note: St. Paul's city pools and beaches are fully staffed at 160 guards, said spokeswoman Clare Cloyd.


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