Mint Springs Park, one of Albemarle County’s three swimming beaches, will be closed until further notice starting Thursday due to a lack of lifeguards, the county announced Wednesday.
“It’s due to unforeseen lifeguard staffing shortages, which ultimately doesn’t allow for a safe swim environment,” county spokeswoman Abbey Strumpf said.
Swimming beaches at Chris Greene Lake Park or Walnut Creek Park are still open. The beaches are open this summer 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday to Sunday. The summer season ends Aug. 21.
Both Albemarle and Charlottesville struggled last year to hire summer employee and this summer has been no different. The county said in May that opening all the beaches was contingent on having enough lifeguards.
The shortage of lifeguards prompted the city to offer $250 signing and end-of-season bonuses for those who meet certain requirements. However, the city recently adjusted the operating days for city pools. The county and city are continuing to hire and pay for lifeguards starts at $15 an hour.
In the city, Onesty Family Aquatic Center will be open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.. Washington Park Pool will be open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Communities across the country are reporting similar problems. According to the American Lifeguard Association, the shortage of trained and certified lifeguards is nationwide and likely to last most of the summer.
The association trains and certifies lifeguards to serve at public and private pools and beaches. Officials said pandemic-related closing of pools across the country in 2020 prevented training of new lifeguards and the recertifying of some lifeguards whose certificates expire every two years. They said lifeguards were forced to find other work during the pandemic, many jobs of which paid better wages, convincing the lifeguards to not return.
Association officials also predict the shortage will become worse in August when high school and college students return to school, leaving locations high and dry of safety personnel.
Earlier this month in Chicago, 686 people had applied to become lifeguards and none had been hired — the candidates needed their certification from the American Red Cross, which had only recently resumed training following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Lewes, Delaware, “swim at your own risk” signs were placed on the beaches as a result of staffing shortages. In Philadelphia, the city had only enough lifeguards to open 18 of its 65 public outdoor pools.