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Lifeguard shortage forces Raleigh to trim summer pool hours, limit admission

Posted May 31, 2015

The wading pool at Lake Johnson Pool.

Raleigh is cutting back hours at city pools and may limit admission during peak times this summer because of a lifeguard shortage.

Raleigh aquatics director Terri Stroupe said she still needs 40 more lifeguards to fully staff the city's collection of indoor and outdoor pools. She has about 125 lifeguards on staff for the summer now.

"We really tried hard to recruit and we've just not gotten a lot of applications," Stroupe said. "... I'm looking at only about 50 percent of what I normally have at several facilities so that's why we had to do something."

The city has published a modified summer schedule on its aquatics program website. Stroupe said officials generally shaved an hour or so off the opening and closing times at some pools. For instance, the wading pool at Millbrook Exchange Park in north Raleigh would have been open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., weekdays, under the old schedule. The new, modified schedule has it open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays.

At Buffaloe Road Aquatics Center in east Raleigh, Stroupe said the popular water slide, the city's only public slide, will operate on limited hours. Stroupe suggested patrons call ahead before they go because, at times, the slide will only open for 10 minutes at the top of the hour.

The city also might need to turn swimmers away if pools get too busy during peak hours. Stroupe said that happens occasionally at Pullen Aquatics Center, but she expects the practice will be more widespread this summer.

"We're putting out lifeguards at every facility and trying to run a seven day operation, but if the sun is shining and everybody is coming to the pool, we are basically telling management staff that they are going to have to stop letting people in the pool," she said. "We will stop allowing admission and people will have to wait to come in."

The city has four year-round pools - Pullen Aquatics Center, Buffaloe Road, Millbrook Exchange and Optimist. Millbrook and Optimist also have seasonal wading pools and other amenities that are open in the spring and summer. Raleigh also opens five outdoor pools during the summer.

Ridge Road and Lake Johnson pools opened last weekend. The pools at Biltmore, Chavis and Longview parks open on June 6.

Stroupe said there's still time to hire certified lifeguards. The city also offers a free program to train lifeguards, but Stroupe said the city will need to get applications for the training program in the next week or so for new lifeguards to be trained to work during the summer season. The free program is for people ages 15 and up who agree to work 155 hours as a lifeguard for the city within a year of taking the class. Stroupe said the city also can help re-certify lifeguards whose certification recently expired.

Stroupe is hopeful more certified lifeguards come forward to help out this summer so she can keep the pools open longer.

"I'm coming up on not so much time left to actually get people trained," she said.

Our public pool database lists pools across the region. Many are open now or will open in the next few weeks.


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  • Jim Frei Jun 1, 2015
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    Try paying $20/ hour. I'd do it for that a few afternoons a week since I'm semi-retired.

  • Stephen Phillips Jun 1, 2015
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    Wonder if they raised the hourly rate if the shortage would go away?

  • Amy Singleton Jun 1, 2015
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    Odd. I remember "hoards of undisciplined kids" at Optimist Park and Hayes Barton in the 80's and 90's. You do too if you're old enough. Now kids bother you instead of you being the kid annoying adults. Nothing's changed but your perspective. The problem is being a lifeguard is now uncool as far as the 15 going on 35 crowd is concerned where it used to be the summer job to land. Didn't you hear?... they're ALL going to be hip-hop, American Idol, NBA stars by the time they're 17 and never have to work a day in their lives... Well, except all that hard work calling poor people "entitled". Thank their parents for the narcissism. Johnny participated ya know... now he's a winner and a hero.

  • Sean Creasy Jun 1, 2015
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    The ones from last year are probably tired of dealing with the hoards of undisciplined kids who feel that they can do whatever they want and not have to listen to the lifeguards.