WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. - A statewide lifeguard shortage is worrying water park operators as they prepare to open for the season Memorial Day weekend.
Noah's Ark is one of the struggling water parks. For more than a month, they've been trying to encourage local teens to apply for open lifeguard positions.
Water park officials are getting help from the state legislature, though. Wisconsin recently passed a law lowering the minimum age to be a lifeguard from 16 to 15. Noah's Ark has already hired a number of 15-year-olds who will help guests with attractions, monitor shallow pools, and check height requirements.
The American Red Cross authorizes facilities to teach lifeguarding classes. The organization's aquatic specialist says the law changing the age requirement was specifically designed to combat the statewide lifeguard shortage.
"With the shortage, it doesn't mean the pools are unsafe," said Curtis Momsen, of the Red Cross. "It could mean a feature might not be open during a certain part of the day or a part of the pool or waterfront may not be open during certain parts of the day. That's where the challenge comes in with the owners and operators."
Noah's Ark has hired more than 500 seasonal employees for its 2018 season. Around 300 are international workers, but the company is hoping to add more local workers.
Some areas in the state do not report a problem finding lifeguards, including Madison. Pools and beaches in town open June 8.
"In Madison, they're doing pretty well," Momsen said. "Up in the Dells, they're always looking for more staff. Possibly the rural areas are having trouble finding staff because they may not have the bodies in their town or their area to come in and take the lifeguarding courses."
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