DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines could not keep all of its pools open at once last summer due to a lifeguard shortage. The city is not going to have that problem this summer.
Des Moines’ Parks and Recreation Department announced Wednesday it is now fully staffed with 151 lifeguards, compared to just 97 lifeguards last summer.
The increase in lifeguards coincides with an increase in wages approved by city council. The minimum wage for lifeguards rose from $11 per hour last year to $15 per hour this year.
Parks and Recreation director Ben Page said other departments across America still cannot find enough lifeguards, a sign the wage increase worked.
“I just had a call last Friday with parks and recreation directors in San Antonio and Las Vegas. Everybody is still having problems,” Page said. “The folks that are still having problems have the similar issue where their wages didn’t get increased. It seems to be the key to success.”
Page also credits the robust lifeguard staff to an all-out recruitment strategy rolled out by his department after last year’s shortage.
“The men and women that work in this building here worked their tails off since December,” Page said. “They’ve been out at job fairs, neighborhood meetings, and high school job fairs. They beat the streets every night and weekend, it felt like, to find this staff. Nobody wants a neighborhood pool closed.”
The Nahas Aquatic Center opens for Memorial Day Weekend, but most other Des Moines pools will not open their gates until June 3. Ashworth Pool will open a few days later due to repairs.