Communities push forward amid lifeguard shortages

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Chauncey Guenard and Logan Keller are lifeguards at Centennial Beach in Hudson. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

REGION – Lifeguard shortages are continuing this summer.

However, the extent and impacts of the issue have varied, according to local officials. 

In Westborough, the town’s Lake Chauncy will not be staffed with lifeguards. 

Grafton Recreation Director Jen Andersen recently told the Community Advocate that the town has enough lifeguards to open and operate its beach this season, though she said they were planning on opening for six days each week, instead of seven due to a lack of sufficient supervisory staff.

In Hudson, things are shaping up nicely, according to Recreation Director Steven Santos, who is eyeing a more traditional season at the town’s Centennial Beach after challenges last year. 

“To hear that Westborough [will] not be able to operate is a bummer,” Andersen said.

Westborough to open beach without lifeguards

Westborough Recreation Director Jenn Kirkland told the Select Board last month that a season without lifeguards at Lake Chauncy may be a possibility. 

The department later confirmed this move in a press release last Friday. 

“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.”

The gate to Lake Chauncy will be open from June 27 to Aug. 12. But there will be no lifeguards on duty and the town will not be selling annual or day passes.

Grafton talks supervisory challenges

Northborough, Southborough and Shrewsbury each do not have bodies of water that the town usually staffs with lifeguards. 

In Grafton, the town uses its lifeguards at Silver Lake Beach located at 245 Upton Street. Silver Lake is due to open on June 18. 

Staffed this summer, the beach will operate Tuesday through Sunday with slightly reduced hours, remaining open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. 

This change is due to challenges in hiring supervisory staff that date back to 2020, according to Andersen.

“We didn’t have the chance to really have the new staff learn their way up,” Andersen said. “A lot of the veteran people we’ve had over those past two years have moved on.”

Grafton is essentially bringing in a crew of all new staff this year. About 16-years-old and new to lifeguarding, these staff members may not have the experience or age needed to be a head lifeguard or beach director, Anderson said. 

Luckily for the town, Anderson continued, Grafton’s beach director is returning this year. 

“If that didn’t happen, we probably would not be in the position to operate either because we would have no one with any experience,” Andersen said.

Andersen said the beach is staffed with between six and seven lifeguards a day. The town typically hires between 15 and 17 lifeguards. 

Hudson faced shortage last year

Elsewhere, in Hudson, Santos recently credited the town’s current situation to “the struggles that we overcame last summer.”

Last year marked the first summer that the town opened its newly renovated Centennial Beach.

Because the beach was closed in 2020, Santos said they lost all but one of their lifeguards heading into 2021. That prompted a somewhat dire situation, with Santos and other recreation staff recruiting heavily to fill lifeguard spots, and Santos recalled even asking kids outside of Town Hall if they were interested in lifeguarding. 

Typically, Hudson hires between 15 to 20 lifeguards per summer. 

Currently, Hudson has 16 lifeguards certified to work at Centennial. 

“I’d love that number to be closer to 20, but I’m very happy with the 16 that we have,” Santos said.

Officials with the Marlborough Recreation Department were unavailable for comment for this article. 

The city has opened its Memorial Beach swimming area for the season, though.

Learn more at https://www.marlborough-ma.gov/recreation-department/pages/wwii-memorial-beach. 

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