Gastonia pool now open after several weeks closed due to lifeguard shortage

In Gastonia, the Lineberger Park Public pool had to delay it's opening several weeks due to the shortage.
Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 6:41 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - The Lineberger Park Pool in Gastonia was closed for several weeks at the beginning of the summer due to a lifeguard shortage.

The public pool off E. Garrison Blvd. normally opens for the summer over Memorial Day Weekend, but remained closed until July 9 this year, according to Andy Stahr, assistant parks and recreation director for the City of Gastonia.

Stahr said it was difficult to recruit lifeguards at the beginning of the summer.

“Initially, it was really difficult. Like I said, with the labor shortage, and nationally the lifeguard shortage,” Stahr explained.

The American Lifeguard Association anticipated that a third of all public pools in the country could be impacted by the shortage. Stahr noted that pandemic disruptions may be part of the reason why it has been hard to recruit lifeguards.

“I think part of it is, with COVID a lot of your younger staff, because pools weren’t open in full capacity for two or three years, you lost that pipeline,” Stahr explained.

Fortunately, the pool was able to find enough lifeguards to open for the summer. One of the lifeguards working at the pool this summer is 17-year-old Lidea Falls. Falls is a rising senior at North Gaston High School. She spoke to WBTV about why she wanted to work as a lifeguard.

“At first I was nervous because like, what if I didn’t know what to do in a situation, but it really is a great job,” the teen explained.

Falls said she likes the idea of saving lives and she enjoys interacting with kids, but she did have reservations about the gig.

“For me it was, ‘I don’t want to be responsible if something bad was to happen and just being in the heat all day, it’s rough’,” said Falls.

Stahr said the city does have plans to have lifeguards trained and ready for the summer 2023.

“We’re looking to partner with other organizations to make sure that we keep training guards and keep them gainfully employed. A lot of it is word of mouth and so doing little things, making sure our guards are enjoying what they’re doing this summer so they tell their friends in the future and like I said just a lot of teamwork,” he explained.

The pool will remain open for its regular season until Sunday, August 14. After the 14th, the pool will continue to open on weekends in August until after the Labor Day holiday.

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