Lifeguard shortage could delay beach opening in Union County

“It’s kind of sad so hopefully they get some lifeguards, get some people out here to man the beach.”
Cane Creek Park in Union County currently only has 3 lifeguards. It needs 9 more to be fully staffed.
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 9:00 PM EDT
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WAXHAW, N.C. (WBTV) - Union County needs more staff, and it could impact how people celebrate the start of summer on the lake.

Cane Creek Park says it currently has 25% of the lifeguards needed to open the beach this year, and the application portal has been open since March.

A relaxing day at the beach could be on pause for people in Union County, maybe until June. Levi Kilian, a park visitor said, “It’s kind of sad so hopefully they get some lifeguards, get some people out here to man the beach.”

Nancy Utsler added, “a lot of people rely on this, I do myself with my nieces and nephews.”

Union County Parks and Recreation says it’s currently short nine lifeguards for the season. A full staff would be 12 lifeguards for the two beaches at Cane Creek Park, so there’s a big hole to fill.

Jim Chaffin, the Director of Union County Parks and Recreation said, “lifeguards have historically been somewhat difficult to get the right number of applicants, however in years pasts, we always seem to manage to get the number of lifeguards needed to open our beach areas, it’s just this has been a difficult year for us.”

The County’s Parks and Recreation Department said the lifeguard shortage is an issue everywhere. People must get certified and then hired in time for the season.

“Certification classes would get them certified in CPR, First Aid, AED, plus they would also get a true lifeguard certification card as well, which is what we require,” said Chaffin.

If Crane Creek Park can hire at least six to seven lifeguards, there are chances that beaches could have a modified schedule.

Utsler said, “I think a lot of people look forward to this, especially like Memorial Day weekend, this place is packed you know and everybody is having a great time, they bring their families, they bring their pups.”

The park staff understands a delay in the beaches opening could disappoint a lot of people.

“We do hate the delay in the beach at this point, we understand that we’re upsetting a lot of folks that are used to coming down to our beaches, we just want them to understand we’re doing everything possible to get our beaches open in a timely fashion,” said Chaffin.

Parks and Recreation said it will pay lifeguards up to $13.47 an hour and the county is offering an incentive to reimburse the cost of lifeguard certification.

There’s still a chance the beach could open in time, it just depends on how many people they have hired and if it’s approved.

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