July 17, 2019
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Lifeguard shortage forces Brunswick to close public swimming area for summer

Courtesy of WGME
Courtesy of WGME
It is going to be a summer without swimming at Coffin Pond in Brunswick.

BRUNSWICK — It is going to be a summer without swimming at a popular pond in Brunswick.

In past summers, Brunswick park officials could count on a staff of more than a dozen lifeguards to cover Coffin Pond. This year, they received an application from just one person.

And with no lifeguards, the pond is drained and signs are posted, “No swimming this season at Coffin Pond.”

It’s something that could be an annual headache, if what officials say are underlying problems aren’t addressed.

“To get your lifeguard certification, that out-of-pocket expense for a young person is a deterrent,” Brunswick Parks & Rec. Director Tom Farrell said. “They’re going to have to pay between $250-$400 to take the course without guarantee they’re going to obtain certification. So for a high school student, that can be a heavy lift.”

And cash for competitive wages has been another problem.

“With the minimum wage increases the last couple of years and the one to come next year, it’s made it much more expensive to fill a life guard staff, because your senior-level lifeguards typically could be paid as much $15-$16 now under the current scales,” Farrell said.

Farrell says it may be time re-evaluate how parks directors view the hiring process altogether, namely, the types of people they look to take on for the position of lifeguard.

“The other group of people that hasn’t been sought out by all of the operators that could prove fruitful are retired folks, people who have time on their hands, who enjoy swimming; who have strong swim skills,” Farrell said.

Now Farrell has an early offseason to plan to open the pond next summer. He says making sure the community knows the value of lifeguards is key.

“Trying to encourage both the younger folks and the older folks in our community that have these swimming skills to come together in terms of supporting community and seek out getting certified because we can help in that regard,” Farrell said.

 



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