Madison prioritizes staffing lifeguards at Goodman Pool, less on beaches

MADISON, Wis. – A nationwide shortage of lifeguards has left many pools and beaches closed across the country, but in the City of Madison, it’s budget cuts that are limiting staffing.

In 2021, Madison officials made the decision to limit beach guarding and focus their efforts on the city’s most popular swim spot, Goodman Pool. Assistant Parks Superintendent Lisa Laschinger said they expect to do the same this year.

“This isn’t the first conversation that’s been had regarding staffing of the beaches or not,” Laschinger said. “It’s very common to go to other places throughout the state and be able to swim on a beach that’s not guarded.”

She said they would provide some level of guarding at the beaches that tend to see more traffic as they’re able, but even those beaches aren’t as heavily utilized as Goodman Pool, which is why they prioritize it.

She also said it’s a neighborhood staple and many of the pool’s visitors don’t feel comfortable swimming at city beaches or can’t afford private pools.

Currently in Madison, 8 of 12 beaches are ‘swim at your own risk’. Elsewhere in Dane County, Director of Dane County Parks Joleen Stinson said, beaches were never guarded but instead operate similar to state parks.

Stinson also said their beaches are shallow and relatively small, for the most part are limited to wading, and they do have ropes in place.

However indoor pools in Dane County, like those operated by the YMCA, maintain lifeguards.

YMCA of Dane County’s Senior Director of Marketing and Communications Scott Shoemaker said their locations are in pretty good shape with lifeguards right now, but it was a process getting those lifeguards, and they would still like to hire more.

Shoemaker also said he’s not sure what staffing will look like in the fall when many of their lifeguards — college and high school students — go back to school.

Madison beaches have been open since Memorial Day and will remain open through Labor Day as water quality allows. Goodman Pool will open next week on June 10th.