Water watchers wanted Pool of certified lifeguards is shallow

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt The lifeguard chair at Flandrau State Park’s swimming pond has been empty since the summer of 2019, and it could remain empty into the upcoming summer due to a shortage of lifeguards.

NEW ULM– For the second year in a row, lifeguard shortages could limit available swimming opportunities this summer.

The New Ulm Aquatic Center and Flandrau State Park are struggling to find lifeguards before the summer swimming season.

The shortage is an aftereffect of the COVID pandemic. Many pools and aquatic centers were closed during the pandemic. As a result, lifeguards were not needed, and many of those interested in lifeguard training were unable to become certified.

New Ulm Assistant Park and Recreation Director Cheryl Kormann said many who were certified as lifeguards before the pandemic saw their certification lapse. Red Cross Lifeguard certification is only valid for two years.

Lifeguard shortages were a problem in the summer of 2021 as well, but neither the pools at the New Ulm Recreation Center nor Flandrau State Park was open. Flandrau’s pool remained closed since 2019 for health concerns.

New Ulm’s aquatic center was closed for construction during the 2020 and 2021 summer seasons. However, New Ulm Park and Recreation realized they would face a lifeguard shortage when they reopened in fall 2021.

Kormann said lifeguard certification training decreased significantly in 2021. There was concern the new aquatic center would open with insufficient staffing. Fortunately, they were able to find enough applicants before the aquatic center opened, but as summer approaches, Park and Recreation is facing a shortage of supervisory or head lifeguards.

Kormann explained supervisory lifeguards must be 18 years or older. People under age 18 can serve as lifeguards but only under the supervision of an adult lifeguard.

New Ulm Aquatic Center was able to hire enough adult lifeguards in September through a pool of applicants from Martin Luther College. The problem is MLC’s spring semester is coming to an end in May and many of the college’s lifeguards will be unavailable during the summer.

Flandrau State Park is facing the same problem. Park manager Craig Beckman said in a normal year the pool is at full staff with eight lifeguards. Typically, four positions need to be filled each summer as student lifeguards move away. This year, after two years without a pool, Flandrau has six open positions.

Without adequate lifeguard staff, the New Ulm Aquatic Center and Flandrau swimming pond might have to limit their hours of operation.

Park and Recreation is offering a Red Cross lifeguard training course this week and in early June for those seeking certification.

Kormann encouraged adults 18 and over to consider registering for training, as supervisors are needed. Teachers on summer break and retirees are welcome to apply, but the Aquatic Center will accept lifeguards of all ages.

Beckman said anyone interested in applying as a Flandrau lifeguard could call the head office or email assistant park manager Maureen Morgan at maureen.morgan@state.mn.us.

Beckman said the Flandrau lifeguard position is perfect for those looking to work outside during the summer season. He anticipates opening the swimming pond from June 3 through the third week in August.


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