BOULDER, Colo. — A lifeguard shortage across the state is forcing several cities to push back pool or lake openings and adjust operating hours.
On Wednesday, Scott Carpenter Pool in Boulder was buzzing with Coloradans looking to cool off. Kids jumped into pools and played pool basketball, but they didn’t have access to all the amenities. The lazy river was closed at the pool because they don’t have enough lifeguards to keep people safe.
Jonathan Thornton, a spokesperson with Boulder Park and Recreation, says they’ve been forced to make some tough decisions, including adjusting pool operation hours and delaying the opening of Spruce Pool.
“We don’t have enough lifeguards to be able to fully staff all of our pools,” Thornton said.
The lifeguard shortage closed South Boulder Recreation Center and the North Boulder Recreation Center will be closed on weekends until the city can staff open positions.
“We like to have approximately 100-120 lifeguards to be able to operate all of our pools, but right now we’ve got about maybe two-thirds of that,” Thornton said.
Ian Crittenden started working at Scott Carpenter Pool when he was 15 years old. He says they need more lifeguards to make sure everyone stays safe as the number of visitors picks up.
A spokesperson with Aurora Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces says they’re 100 lifeguards short this summer. She says operation hours at six pools have been impacted. The Utah indoor pool is now closed on weekends, too, so those lifeguards can help at outdoor pools.
Loveland Parks and Recreation is down about 30 lifeguards, which delayed the opening of Lake Loveland. It was initially expected to open at the beginning of June, but that opening date is now closer to the end of the month.
“Twenty lifeguards is just not enough for three facilities. It’s actually a struggle right now to even keep two facilities open,” Loveland Parks and Recreation Manager LeAnn Williams said.
The City of Boulder pays lifeguards $12.32-$15.30 an hour, Aurora pays $12.50 and up and Loveland pays $12.32-$17 an hour based on experience. The wages described on the online application description varies from the wages provided by the spokesperson of each city. Thornton said they pay $13 an hour, Williams said they pay $13.25 and a spokesperson with the City of Aurora said they pay $14 an hour.
“We are seriously looking again at increasing those starting wages just so that we are competitive,” Williams said.
She says they are also looking into covering expenses for applicants to get their lifeguard certifications so they don't need to pay out of pocket.
Thornton says they’re looking into incentives, too, but adds that extra funding is tough. He says the city is already losing out on potential profits because they have to cancel swim lessons to utilize those lifeguards at pools.
Both Williams and Thornton admit they’re up against fast food restaurants and other job opportunities that pay higher wages. They believe it’s, in part, why they have so many unfilled positions.
Lifeguards are going through training in Boulder and Loveland, and both cities say they will continue to hire applications until all of the positions are filled.