Lifeguard Mason Yenter, 17, a Union Grove High School student, supervises swimmers in the children’s area of the Burlington Community Aquatic Center Tuesday. Aquatic Center Director Jeanne Otter said the facility is fully staffed and has not had issues hiring and keeping lifeguards. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

Facility touted as a safe alternative to lakes by county official

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Racine and Kenosha county officials have each reported some difficulty with recruiting lifeguards in recent years.

“Like with other municipalities in the area, it’s been a big challenge recruiting and staffing lifeguards for the last several summers,” said Mark Schaaf, a spokesperson for Racine County.

In Kenosha County, officials said the parks department only has jurisdiction on Silver Lake Beach in Salem Lakes as well as Old Settlers Park in Paddock Lake.

Matthew Collins, Parks Director, reported both beaches have not had any lifeguards on duty because of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as difficulty in recruiting.

“Both of these beaches are now swim at your own risk, with anyone who decides to swim urged to use caution,” Collins said. “In past years, Silver Lake Park Beach was staffed with lifeguards, but the combination of COVID-19 and difficulty with recruiting seasonal staff has led us to go without lifeguards this year.”

Two recent deaths in Lake Michigan have driven home the value of life guards in painful way.

“Any time we have children that die in our community it really rocks the emotions of all of us, especially when they’re senseless deaths that could have been prevented,” Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said.

Schaaf, meanwhile, reiterated a statement from Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave encouraging residents and visitors who are concerned about safety to take advantage of safer alternatives.

Delagrave said at a June 22 news conference these alternatives include the Burlington Community Aquatic Center as well as SC Johnson Community Aquatic at Racine’s Pritchard Park. He said both facilities offer a safe place for families to swim in a more controlled environment.

That includes additional safeguards such as more lifeguard coverage and supervision.

 

Aquatic Center fully staffed

Jeanne Otter, director for the Burlington Community Aquatic Center, said on Tuesday the pool has not had trouble recruiting or training lifeguards.

“We are fully staffed with lifeguards,” she said. “I also have a lifeguard instructor/trainer on staff, so we are able to train our own people.

“We certainly have enough people,” she added.

Otter credits staff retention and promoting from within as two of many reasons the Aquatic Center hasn’t faced the problems experienced at other beaches and pools.

“Most of our guards this year are returning guards, I am very proud of that,” she said. “We also promote from within, a lot of our pool attendants will start as pool attendants for their first job and then maybe they decide to become a lifeguard.”

Additionally, the Burlington Community Aquatic Center places a focus on a proactive recruitment, beginning in January.

“We hire early. I usually start the hiring process in January, and we are usually done by the end of March, so that is another reason why we are usually staffed well before we need to be,” Otter said.

She also said the lifeguards undergo daily training exercises to their skills from eroding.

To read an expanded version of this story see the July 1 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.