Westborough’s Lake Chauncy to go without lifeguards this summer

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There will be no lifeguards at Westborough’s Lake Chauncy Beach this year. (Photo/Stuart Foster)

WESTBOROUGH – Westborough’s Lake Chauncy beach will not be staffed this summer due to a lifeguard shortage, according to Westborough Recreation Director Jenn Kirkland. 

Kirkland told the Select Board during its May 24 meeting that the department only had seven new applicants to be a lifeguard. Two of those individuals had limited availability. 

Recreation staff then shared a press release on Friday confirming that there will not be lifeguards at the beach. 

Just three current staff members were anticipated to return this summer as of Kirkland’s May 24 presentation. 

“This is an unfortunate situation,” Kirkland said. “But we’re not alone. Almost every community that I’ve spoken with is having the same struggle hiring lifeguards.”

Residents swimming at Lake Chauncy, which will be open beginning June 27 and through Aug. 12, are told to swim at their own risk.

Kirkland initially announced the possibility of not having lifeguards during the Select Board meeting. Chair Ian Johnson said at that time that the news was disappointing. But he added that he felt this was the right decision.

Town ran recruiting effort 

The town had previously spent about four months “recruiting hard” to attract lifeguards, Kirkland said.

She outlined the various ways the town has tried to get candidates, including advertising on social media and in email blasts. 

The town reached out to the Boroughs Family Branch YMCA, Westboro Tennis and Swim Club and other swim venues. They, likewise, tried recruiting kids who had applied to be camp counselors. Staff even put a banner on the fence to the Lake Chauncy beach.

While the staff ran through different scenarios, however, Kirkland said it wasn’t feasible with the amount of applicants that ultimately came in.

“I just don’t think it’s fair for the community to have to pay for a service that we, frankly, can’t deliver, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone – whether patrons or the few lifeguards that we did have – in any kind of unsafe situation,” Kirkland said.

Town also lacks waterfront director

Sun shines on Westborough’s Lake Chauncy. (Photo/Stuart Foster)

Short lifeguards, the town also does not have a waterfront director, who would normally oversee these positions, this year. 

Kirkland said last year’s director is enrolled in graduate classes and is unable to return.

“That would leave us without any leadership at the beach,” Kirkland said.

In a typical year, there’s a waterfront director and at least one head lifeguard, she said. 

Ideally, there would be at least 15 lifeguards for Kirkland to feel comfortable staffing the beach. 

While Kirkland said that number may seem high, she noted that the applicants often don’t have full availability. 

Last year, with 13 lifeguards on staff, there were not enough staff members.

“We had callouts,” Kirkland said. “There were vacations planned, things of that nature.” 

Select Board discusses opening beach gate

During the Select Board meeting last month, Kirkland said that the town was not planning to open the gate to the Chauncy beach, adding that people could access the area by going around its fence. 

Supporting the decision to not run insufficient lifeguard services, some Select Board members expressed their concerns about that specific plan. 

Patrick Welch recalled recently taking his granddaughters to the playground at Lake Chauncy, lifting their strollers over rocks to get around the fence and wheeling across the beach’s sand to get onto a sidewalk to get to the playground.

“If that gate was open, I would have immediately been [able to go] right into the sidewalk and not to have done that,” Welch said. “I can only imagine mothers having to do that with two and three children to bring them to the playground.”

He called for the gate to be open during daylight hours.

The town now does plan to open the gate.