Lifeguard shortage impacting pool hours
By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Despite a lifeguard shortage and COVID-19 limitations, local residents are again taking the plunge in Chatham-Kent’s indoor pools.
The Chatham-Kent YMCA opened its popular pool several weeks ago, meeting the twin challenges posed by a limited number of available staff and safety restrictions.
It’s welcome news for a pandemic weary public, considering the demand for lessons, aquatics, the Pool Sharks swim team and lane swimming, says Y manager Amy Wadsworth.
“It’s our number one draw,” Wadsworth said, adding eight of 10 calls she gets are asking about the pool.
“It’s huge for us.”
Wadsworth said the Chatham facility’s problem isn’t unique, with other YMCAs and municipalities in need of lifeguards.
Wadsworth said COVID-19 interrupted the normal flow of training that would produce homegrown lifeguards.
Pre-pandemic, there were almost 600 youngsters registered for lessons per week, Wadsworth said, making it a busy place.
Like the municipality, which has also opened its indoor pools in Wallaceburg and Blenheim on a limited basis, the number of swimmers is restricted and pre-registration is required.
Wadsworth said lane swimming will be held in available times around current lifeguard training.
The number of sessions has been stepped up, she said, in order to fill the gap.
Wadsworth the Y maintains a close working relationship with Chatham-Kent, with both agencies co-ordinating schedules to facilitate lessons and training.
According to Ann Robinson, the municipality’s recreation manager, lessons and training are getting back on track.
She said the collaboration with the YMCA works well and will continue.
“We share lifeguards when we can,” Robinson explained.
With many youth heading off to post-secondary and others who abandoned the job when the pools were closed, the catch-up will continue.
Three courses, costing $700, are needed to qualify as a lifeguard; however, Wadsworth said funding supports are available to young people who want to take the necessary courses.