Lifeguard shortage in Durham prompts permanent pool closure, 40-swimmer limit

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham Parks and Recreation is closing down one pool for the season and implementing a 40-swimmer limit, as it deals with a shortage of lifeguards.

The Friday morning announcement also included the fluctuation of pool schedules for this weekend.

According to the city, Hillside Pool will be open normal hours Saturday, while Long Meadow Pool will be closed. On Sunday, Long Meadow Pool will be open for business, while Hillside Pool will close its doors.

Another major update was the closing of Forest Hills Pool for the remainder of the outdoor pool season.

In a statement sent to ABC11, the department said "we currently don't have enough staff to maintain the operational hours for all of our pools."

Recreation and Aquatics Manager Colleen Toomey said she is having to pick up her sunglasses and sunscreen.

"Outside lifeguarding, working the front desk, checking the pools," Toomey said.

Colleen said the shortage is a national problem, and she added that it may be a result of younger people looking elsewhere.

"This age group that is primarily lifeguards are being driven into internships in their careers," Toomey said.

The long-term fix to attract new recruits includes:

  • Raising the hourly wage from $10 to $11 starting July 1
  • Providing some positions with benefits: health insurance, 401k, and retirement plans
  • Offering free lifeguard training that could lead directly to a job

"Eventually, we're hoping to show the need for full-time lifeguard positions," Toomey said.

Along with benefits, the city is looking at new recruiting strategies to broaden its marketing efforts.

The city is also working to develop a new part-time plan which will further increase that hourly pay rate.

Until the number of lifeguards increases, Toomey recommends residents enjoy splash pads and indoor pools in the community.
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