Raleigh lifeguard shortage creates waiting lists for entry to some pools

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The popularity of Raleigh’s Buffaloe Road Aquatic Center on Saturday led to guests adding their names to a waiting list, which city parks officials could become more frequent due to a lifeguard shortage.

Aquatics director Terry Stroupe said the Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department is 30 lifeguards below the 160 needed to be at full operations.


“If we do come up short for staff, we will close areas of the pool, stop letting people in so we can keep a safe environment no matter what,” Stroupe said.

A dry erase board posted in front of the Buffaloe Road pool Saturday afternoon said “We are at CAPACITY. Please talk our front desk staff to be put on the wait list.”

Raleigh’s lifeguard shortage is nothing new.

Stroupe said the staffing numbers this year are much better than in 2015, but they remain short.

Recruitment efforts include the creation of YouTube videos as well as offers from the city to train lifeguards for free if they work for the parks department for much of the Summer.

Interest is up, but the number of quality applicants is insufficient. Stroupe said about half of the people who apply are unable to pass the physical fitness test of the tryout.

“It consists of a 300-yard swim, two minutes treading water with just your legs, and retrieving a 10-pound brick off the bottom of the pool. There are a lot of kids that can’t seem to do that,” she said.

While many of the staffers are students — and they lose a lot of lifeguards when high schoolers go to college —- the aquatics centers are open to anyone willing and able to do it.

Stroupe said some people serve as lifeguards as a second career after they retire.

Potential lifeguards can apply online by visiting this Raleigh website.


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