Lifeguard shortage cuts summer swimming and aquatic programs in London

Outdoor pools are being prepped to open in July, but this summer will have fewer opportunities for Londoners to take a dip.

A report to city council’s Community and Protective Services Committee explains that COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021 limited opportunities for lifeguards to be trained and certified.

The consequence is a province-wide shortage.

London normally employs 110 lifeguards, but Director of Recreation and Sport Jon-Paul McGonigle said many positions remain infilled.

“We’re anywhere from 15 to 25 short, it fluctuates on a daily basis. At 40 hours per week you can see how much it adds up,” he told CTV News. “We are really just trying to work with the supply [of lifeguards] we have available.”

Though the goal was a return to normal this summer, McGonigle expects aquatic programs offered by the city will operate at about 80 per cent of pre-pandemic (2019) levels.

Service reductions will impact:

  • Recreational swims
  • Fit lane offerings
  • learn to swim

Pool hours will be reduced and there will be daily closures equitably rotated across the city.

Aquatic program reductions due to a lifeguard shortage. (Source: City of London)Water slides that require two lifeguards will not operate.

Meanwhile, the Glen Cairn outdoor pool will not operate this summer because of safety concerns.

Constructed in 1963, repairs were made to allow a continuation of recreational swimming last year.

But an evaluation by engineers this spring exposed severe structural deficiencies requiring extensive repairs.

It’s a devastating disappointment for neighbors who spoke to CTV News.

“I don’t drive, but it’s walkable to be able to have swim time and cool off,” said Debbie Corns.

Chelsea Brown worries that kids will turn to dangerous and unmonitored locations to cool off when temperatures climb.

“There’s the Thames River right down the road from here,” she explained. “If kids aren’t going to be able to swim in a pool, they are going to be looking for other places to go and my first concern is that river .”

The city says it won’t leave the community high and dry this summer.

“We will try to assist them with any opportunities we can, whether that’s swim passes or transportation opportunities to other nearby facilities,” promised McGonigle.

The closed pool next to the previously closed recreation center has other Glen Cairn residents worried about the long-term viability of their neighborhood for families.

“Low income people around here, we need things like that. It’s sad. It’s taking everything away from our community,” said Betty Lambert.

McGonigle says community consultation about the future of aquatic facilities in Glen Cairn were delayed by the pandemic, but will be held this fall.

“Everything will be on the table,” he said. “Some of them might be shorter term, some longer term, but that will be up to our discussions with the community.”

Summer hours for aquatic facilities and pools will be released by city hall in June.

Splash pads will continue to operate as in previous years.

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