Lifeguard shortage threatens Jackson County public beaches

JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. – Jackson County has faced a lifeguard shortage for public beaches since 2021 and is still looking to fill the void.

Beaches were shut down for the pandemic in 2020 and nobody was training to become a lifeguard during that time. Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Tina Spallo also attributes the shortage to fewer people looking for seasonal jobs.

Longview Lake beach and Blue Springs Lake beach both opened for the 2022 season but Longview faced a shortage early on and was forced to stay closed for Memorial Day. This year, things are not looking much different for Blue Springs beach, which could cause a two week delay or more. Combined, the two lakes attract about 4,000 visitors to the beaches each week.

Because of the shortage, Jackson County Parks and Recreation is looking to promptly hire six to eight lifeguards.

Available job listings can be found at the American Red Cross website, which lists all areas in metro Kansas City where those interested can train and receive their American Lifeguard Certificate. The certification is valid for two years and is accepted nationwide. Trainees are taught how to prevent and respond to water emergencies while learning CPR/AED and first aid. 

“We typically steer people towards the Longview Community Center, which is run by Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation,” Spallo told The Heartlander. “They host training sessions there because they have an indoor pool. We work with one of their trainers pretty closely to recruit kids to come to work for us.”

Jackson County typically hires those from 16-23 years old. Some recruits are still in college and are looking for summer occupations. The pay is above entry level at $15 per hour. 

Clay County doesn’t hire lifeguards for its public beaches, but Spallo says it’s incredibly important for safety concerns.

“It’s all about safety. We offer a whole different experience than Clay County. Clay County is a more natural area. They don’t have all of the amenities we have at our beaches, but plain and simple we have lifeguards for safety reasons to keep people from drowning.”

Spallo says Jackson County is different from working at a neighborhood pool. Lifeguards at the beaches are able to experience cultures from various places while being out in nature.

“We have a really positive culture here in Jackson County for our seasonal employees. We really pride ourselves in providing them with a positive work experience, especially for those kids where this may be their first job. Lifelong friendships are made.”

To visit the Jackson County Parks and Recreation website, click here

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