Swimming prohibited, delayed in NJ state parks due to shortage of lifeguards
Trying to cool off with a swim in a state park could be a sweat this summer.
Swimming is banned this year in the lakes of four parks where it is normally allowed, and delayed in two more until August, after the state was unable to recruit lifeguards amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“New Jersey, like the rest of the country, experiences a seasonal shortage of lifeguards that has been exacerbated this summer due to COVID,” the State Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement Friday. “Hiring seasonal lifeguards even before the pandemic was increasingly difficult as rescue declined as a summer job choice nationwide. “
The Ringwood and Swartswood State Parks, Belleplain State Forest, and Spruce Run Recreation Area web pages notify potential visitors that “swimming is closed for the 2021 season.”
Swimming is delayed until August at Bass River and Parvin State Parks, whose web pages inform future free stylists and backstrokers that “swimming is not permitted at this time.”
“We are training our lifeguard staff and are planning an opening date in August”, specify the pages of the two parks. “Please visit our swim schedule page to find out which parks currently offer swimming.”
Swimming is permitted on New Jersey’s best-known state beach, the Ocean Beach at Island Beach State Park, which this week assured potential guests that “the park’s swimming beach now has a bathtub. rescuers ”.
Recruiting lifeguards had become increasingly difficult even before the pandemic, a problem largely attributed to wages too low to attract adults who might otherwise be available for seasonal work, as well as the desire of students who also occupy many lifeguard positions spend their summers in athletic programs or internships to bolster college applications or career opportunities.
A survey by NJ Advance Media of municipalities up and down the Jersey Shore found that many had to raise their wages not only to keep up with the state’s gradually rising minimum wage, but also to compete on the lifeguard labor market.
Coastal communities in Cape May County, Stone Harbor and Avalon, which operate a joint beach patrol on Seven Mile Island, felt pressured to increase their starting lifeguard salary by $ 12.50 per hour in 2019 at $ 19.38 last summer.
NJAM asked DEP how much he pays his rescuers, but got no response.
Aside from the pay issue, lifeguards face a unique risk among coronavirus rescuers, as they cannot wear breathing masks to protect themselves, or screen swimmers who are coughing and breathing heavily as they run into the water. water, swim and kiss to save.
The agency said it “would continue to work hard to recruit new and / or experienced lifeguards and use all resources at our disposal to ensure that New Jersey residents can enjoy swimming in the state parks of the United States. NJ “.
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Steve Strunsky can be reached at [email protected]