Parks anticipates life guard shortage
By Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor, [email protected]
Public outdoor swimming pools won’t open for a few more months, but Larry Shickles, superintendent of the Harrison County Parks Dept., is already concerned about having enough life guards to staff its facilities.
“You’re really going to start to see a life guard shortage everywhere,” he told his board last Wednesday night during its monthly meeting at the Harrison County Discovery Center in downtown Corydon.
Shickles sees two main reasons for the possible shortage: an overall lack of employees for many businesses and not enough people certified to work as life guards.
“If we don’t address the shortage, there’s no way we can operate all the facilities,” he said.
The county parks department has the May & Joe Rhoads Memorial Pool at Poolside Park in Corydon, which didn’t open last year due to the location being used as a COVID-19 test site.
It has another in-ground pool at South Harrison Park near Elizabeth. That facility opened last season after being closed the year prior due to maintenance work.
Life guards also are used at Buffalo Trace Park’s lake, where swimming is allowed.
Shickles said the parks department could stagger staffing life guards or not open at all.
Traditionally, the county’s public swim sites open Memorial Day Weekend and close Labor Day Weekend.
Ideally, the parks department needs 28 to 30 life guards to be at what it calls full staff. Current pay for its life guards is $11 per hour.
Shickles said the parks department competes with O’Bannon Woods State Park to the west of Corydon and the YMCA of Harrison County in Corydon for life guards.
The YMCA of Harrison County offers lifeguard certification classes throughout the year. It’s a 30-hour course, and attendance is mandatory at each meeting. Participants must be at least 15 by the end of the class to register and complete the following required prerequisites: 300-yard swim test, tread water for two minutes and perform a timed event.
Shickles said he is a little concerned about using 15-year-olds as life guards due to their maturity level and labor laws are more strict for that age employee.
“I’m even a little reluctant with 16-year-olds,” he said.
The parks department has two people who are certified life guard instructors and will soon add a third. Shickles said having them should help with getting enough guards certified for the parks department as well as other facilities in the area that may need to send people to be certified or recertified.
Shickles said he hopes that by the time the board meets again, on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Discovery Center, some life guard classes will have taken place.
Anyone interested in life guard classes should call the parks department at 812-738-8236 or the YMCA of Harrison County at 812-734-0770.