Lifeguard shortage forces Spencer Park's beach to close for Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day weekend is usually the time of year when pools and local lakes open up for swimming.

But if you had plans to visit the beach at Spencer Park in Rochester Hills, you will need to find another place to swim.

A shortage of lifeguards has forced the park's swimming area and beach to close for Memorial Day weekend, according to a city news release. The park itself will remain open.

"This is pretty rare," said the Rochester Hills director of parks and natural resources, Ken Elwert. "We’ve always had a strong crew and a strong tradition of lifeguards here. The labor market has changed quite a bit in the last couple of years."

Spencer Park currently only has four lifeguards on staff – not enough to open even on weekends. Normally, there would be between 15 and 20 lifeguards for the summer, Elwert said.

And it's not for a lack of trying.

The city of Rochester Hills is trying to entice potential lifeguard candidates with a raise in pay and signing bonus for those who stay the full 8-week season.

"We presented at schools, we reached out to swim clubs, and we try to tap all those – and it can be a fun job. It is a serious job," Elwert said.

The efforts certainly got the attention of Janelle Hayes, who is hoping to be the fifth lifeguard at Spencer Park.

"I always had a passion to help and this was the first way I could do it at my age, so it was a good opportunity," Hayes said.

Rebecca Hartrick is the veteran of the lifeguard staff.

"This has been such a blast to do. The amount of people you meet and the opportunities you get to have –just like guarding, having fun with all the kids when the camp comes– it’s amazing," Hartick said.

Any skilled swimmer with a passion for helping would be a good addition to the team, she added.

"We want you to be Red Cross certified, but if not, we’ll usually be able to find a class for you, and then you’ll get all the skills you need," Hatrick said.

According to the job listing, Red Cross certification takes three weeks. The pay is $15 an hour and the season is roughly 8 weeks long. Those who make it to the end can earn a $500 bonus.

The hope is to soon have enough guards to open up the beach the weekend after Memorial Day weekend, but that all depends on qualified lifeguard applicants. 


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