Lifeguard shortage impacting Town of Minto pools

MINTO – A shortage of lifeguards will result in modified schedules at swimming pools in Palmerston and Harriston this summer, including closing each of the pools for one day on weekends.

“We had to make some of modifications compared to what we were able to offer last year as a result of having fewer staff,” community services director Matt Lubbers told Minto council on June 7.

“The two big changes … would be private lessons being offered in the late afternoon as opposed to the early and mid-mornings and our plan is to only have one pool open on Saturdays and one pool open on Sundays.”

The new schedule means the Harriston pool will be closed on Saturdays, while the Palmerston pool will be closed on Sundays.

“We’re still able to offer ample afternoon and evening public swims, group lessons, swim team, adult swim and aqua fitness on weekdays,” said Lubbers.

In an email to the Advertiser, Lubbers said the downward trend in the number of students becoming lifeguards began before 2020 “and the pandemic certainly didn’t help.

“We were one of only a few municipalities that opened their outdoor pools for the summer of 2020 and that helped with staff retention the past two summers,” he noted.

Lubbers said the town had fewer applicants this year and is “fortunate to only need to make a couple of changes to our schedule.”

In the meantime, he said, staff are looking at ways to boost Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross enrolment in Minto.

“After which, we need to encourage those candidates to continue on to NLS and instructor courses offered at indoor pools,” he explained. 

Lubbers pointed out that, effective June 2, the provincial government has reduced the age to become a lifeguard and instructor from 16 to 15 in an effort to address the shortage.

Roller skating

Lubbers noted in his report that a pilot program offering roller skating on Saturdays at the Clifford Arena from 12 to 1pm is going well and continuing until the end of June.

The idea for the program, which requires participants to bring their own in-line or four-wheel roller skates, came from a local resident.

“We thought we’d try it for six weeks … depending on how things play out for the fall, it might be something we look at doing in September, October, November,” said Lubbers, noting over 30 skaters attended the first week and around 23 the second.

“For a Saturday at noon that’s pretty good,” he observed.