Sunday, July 03, 2022

Local News

Staffing Shortages Becoming Critical at Guilford Park & Rec

The Guilford Park & Recreation Department is facing critical staffing shortages for a number of positions that will impact access and availability to several area beaches and parks, according to department officials. The staff most in need are lifeguards for Lake Quonnipaug and Jacobs beaches, according to Park & Recreation Director Rick Maynard.

Without additional staffing, some swimming lesson class sizes may need to be limited and hours may need to be shortened at the beaches, according to Maynard.

“Our current need is really aquatics right now,” Maynard said. “It seems like there are some applications trickling in for the summer day camps, so those look a bit better, but we still need staff. The day camps are a very needed program for many parents, it is like daycare for some, so it is important that we have a full staff for these programs.”

This is not the department’s first time encountering staffing issues.

“This may be the third year in a row where we can’t offer full swim lessons. For obvious reasons, the last two years was due to COVID, but we are truly in need,” Maynard said. “We normally need about 20 lifeguards and right now we only have 11, and I think this is the first year that this has happened in my memory. We normally have plenty of guards, but this is happening across the region. Everybody is having this problem, regionally and nation-wide.”

According to Maynard, the department is currently considering limiting swimming lesson class sizes and also cutting beach access hours to compensate of the lack of hires.

“It’s such an important job, and it you have a lot of responsibility. But if we can’t find staff, we may need to alter the swim lessons,” Maynard said. “We may have to shift hours. We may not be able to stay open for a full day at one or the other of the beaches. If we don’t have enough guards for two shifts, we may simply have to cut a shift.’

The department is still on track for the original plan of officially opening beaches on weekends only after Memorial Day and then opening both beaches fully seven days a week after Guilford schools shut for the summer. Currently the department plan will keep Jacobs and Quonnipaug on their traditional time schedule: open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, with Jacobs open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, and Quonnipaug open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., but those times are now uncertain if staffing can’t be found, according to Maynard.

“Generally, there is a lot more activity at Jacobs, but the lake is actually where more swimming takes place, so we’re not quite sure where to limit hours. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, we just aren’t sure how to limit the hours, because both beaches are used so heavily and for different purposes,” Maynard said. “Most people, and a lot from out of the area, go to Quonnipaug to swim. Jacobs has a lot of activities, especially depending on the tide, it’s more of a sunbathing beach, but with the boat storage and the new Splash Pad, we need staff there all the time. So we are working on a plan that will have the least impact for residents.”

Recreation Supervisor Ellen Clow said the situation is the most critical it has been during her tenure. Limited hirings and hours enforced by COVID restrictions have also played a part in the crisis, according to Clow.

“I’ve been here 15 years and this is the first year we are facing a challenge like this,” said Clow. “The last few years, the staff have put forth an excellent effort in keeping the beaches open during the pandemic, and they successfully did that, however, with that, new lifeguards were not being trained and we started having staff age out. “One of the things that we are usually very successful at is retention, but because of the pandemic it caught up to us,” she continued. “We have another month, so we are hopeful, but for us lifeguards are obviously critical. Anyone interested should contact me or Taryn Erb, and we can assist with that process. It’s a great summer job, so we hope people will respond. They do such a great job and really help keep residents safe.”

For more information or to apply for a position, visit the Park and Recreation pages at www.ci.guilford.ct.us, call 203-453-8068, or email Clow at clowe@guilfordct.gov or Taryn Erb at erbt@guilfordct.gov.


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