It’s been a tough year for keeping lifeguards at the BV Regional Pool and Recreation Centre (BVRP).
At their annual AGM June 12 BVRP staff explained that the issue is on their radar and a top priority going forward.
“There aren’t enough staff to run the building,” said facility manager Tamara Gillis, noting that she has spoken to people at other facilities and the issue is one felt by smaller communities all throughout the region.
“It’s also not uncommon in recreation [and] everyone in the north is having a hard time, except for Prince George pretty much, finding and keeping lifeguards and aquatic recreation staff.”
That reduction in staff has meant reduced hours, starting with BVRP being closed Sundays last fall and this Spring again, after being open seven days for a short time in between.
On June 8 the centre announced more changes in overall hours for the facility due to staffing issues in a press release.
“We have done our best to spread out the impact on members and still provide an opportunity for lane swim, evening relaxing and open public swim as best as we can with the staffing we have,” it reads.
“We appreciate your flexibility to adjust your schedule to accommodate where possible.”
Gillis said that one way BVRP is looking at bringing more recruits on board is through reducing the fees for a number of steps critical in the process of becoming a lifeguard.
This year they offered multiple sessions of free life saving skills training to people who were interested in lifeguarding but didn’t know how to swim or wanted to improve their skills.
Gillis said BVRP also offered a number of bursaries to students who were unable to invest the money into the number of steps necessary to become a lifeguard.
“[We] even flew somebody down to Vancouver to take a national lifeguard course so we could hire her,” she said.
She said that for some the financial barriers can seem like a big deterrent, but factoring in how much lifeguards can make the job is a great opportunity for a high-school student looking for pocket cash without the hours associated with traditional first jobs.
In response to a number of questions at the meeting, Gillis explained that, for a number of reasons (such as the changeroom proximity to the pool), there always need to be lifeguarding staff on duty if the facility is open.
She also responded to concerns from people who say they frequently use the building on Sundays by acknowledging they have already had a number of people opt to put their membership on hold until hours can return back to normal.
“Could you please explain the minimum requirements for provincial regulations and what our minimum requirements are, and if there is a difference,” one man asked, suggesting that perhaps by lowering the standard, people could be hired quicker.
But Gillis explained that even though someone with their Bronze Cross training can technically lifeguard, that it’s ill advised.
“Industry standard is that lifeguards have their National Lifeguard [status] and that there be two certified people on the pool deck.”
As the meeting drew to a close, Gillis expressed a feeling that a new chapter in lifeguarding for the facility could be just around the corner, as another staff member noted that numbers for children in the BV Otters swim club have gone above 50 this year, despite being as low as 35 in recent years.
“Im optimistic because the 14-year-olds are super keen [and] I feel like there’s just a bit of a lull.”
The BV Regional Pool and Recreation Centre was constructed in 1990.