Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks Makes Final Push for Summer Lifeguards

County hoping to increase lifeguards by 10% in 2024.

By - Apr 17th, 2024 06:49 pm
Schulz Aquatic Park. Photo taken May 17, 2023 by Graham Kilmer.

Schulz Aquatic Park. Photo taken May 17, 2023 by Graham Kilmer.

Milwaukee County Parks is making a final push for this season’s lifeguards.

The number of pools opened this summer will depend on how many lifeguards the department manages to recruit. The department went into the 2023 season with just under 100 lifeguards and opened 27 aquatic facilities, which included seven splash pads.

The department is holding its final training session next week, and it’s not too late to sign up. The session begins Monday, April 22 with classes at Pulaski Pool.

“The number of lifeguards that are needed at each facility varies based on amenities that individual pools offer,” said Jeff Orlowski, parks director of recreation and business services. “Pool facilities that are designed for lap swimming require less lifeguards, while pools that provide additional amenities such as recreational toys, slides, and water-based obstacles require additional lifeguards to keep patrons safe but are more popular with families and children.”

With 60 Returning guards and new recruits, the department has an estimated 90 guards committed for the season, Orlowski said. But the department hopes to reach 110 by the time pools open, a roughly 10% increase over the number of guards in 2023, he said.

The department has not made any decisions yet about what pools will open. Officials are waiting for a firm number of lifeguards and also their availability. The county board included an additional $300,000 in the 2024 budget to support additional facility openings, provided there are enough guards.

The department is planning to open more wading pools and splash pads than last year, Orlowski said. With limited funding, lifeguards and seasonal workers, parks has has been converting wading pools to splash pads all across the parks system, to boost the number of aquatic facilities it can open each summer. Splash pads require minimal or no staff to operate.

To fully staff the county’s aquatics facilities, Parks needs at least 200 lifeguards. While recruitment had been declining in the years leading up to the pandemic, a season of closed pools caused numbers to plummet. When everything reopened in 2021, Parks had only 53 guards. But, thanks in part to aggressive recruitment and pay raises, guard numbers have steadily risen.

The department began recruiting for 2024 guards in fall last year, and the 2024 budget created a new Aquatics Recruitment and Administrative Coordinator Position. Hourly pay for county lifeguards starts at $17.13. The department also offers a series of bonuses for referrals and returning guards. First-year guards are eligible for a $500 sign-on bonus.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

2 thoughts on “MKE County: Parks Makes Final Push for Summer Lifeguards”

  1. DAGDAG says:

    Boy how things have changed. In the 1970’s, we literally competed with friends in our high school for these jobs. And there was so much competition for this position. The other big one for us was working for the City of Milwaukee taking care of the boulevards, or summer jobs for the parks (golf course positions were sought after). Pay wasn’t great…but it sure gave us some money for college, and job experiences. It is hard to fill positions when so many kids don’t seem to know how to swim I guess.

  2. gerrybroderick says:

    Perhaps furnishing water-proof cell phones would increase the potential “pool” of otherwise distracted applicants.

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