Lifeguard shortage closes pool in Milwaukee



Don't plan a dip at Holler Park Pool this summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It won't be open. 

With only 131 lifeguards recruited and certified for 2019 — less than half the ideal 300 lifeguards and 45 short of last year's force — the decision was made to not open the pool this year.

"There's not enough lifeguards to staff all of the pools, so ... the only way that schedule works is if one pool was closed," Milwaukee County Parks spokesman Ian Everett said. 

Holler Park Pool, 5151 S. Sixth St., was chosen based on last year's attendance numbers and its proximity to other aquatic facilities, Everett said. 

Between 2010 and 2018, Holler Park Pool had an average annual attendance of 4,486 — the lowest of the deep well pools.

The lack of lifeguards has also meant reducing hours at indoor and outdoor pools. That includes closing each pool one day each week.

Lifeguard recruitment has been trending downward for years nationally, he said. 

And it's not like hopeful lifeguards-to-be can just walk onto the job.

RELATED: 2019 guide to pools, wading pools and splash pads in the Milwaukee area; county pools open this weekend

"We get a lot of people that are interested in being a lifeguard but they are unable to pass the test requirements," he said of the physical test. 

For those who pass, there's training that follows. That training, however, is finished so anyone who is interested now is too late. 

The department was trying to recruit for six months, he said. 

There are residents who are upset about the pool closure, as predicted, he said. But, Everett added, with only 131 lifeguards there isn't going to be a scenario where everyone would be happy. 

He called on the community to help recruit lifeguards and interest teens in the positions.

The department will also need to look at what else it can do to recruit.

"It's been a trend for a few years, so we're trying to figure out a way to reverse that," he said.

But, Everett said, there are also 47 other facilities open, so there will be many ways for people to stay cool this summer. Additional information about hours, entry fees, maps and schedules is available at

Eight outdoor pools, eight splash pads and 27 wading pools will open on Saturday. Cool Waters Water Park and Schulz Aquatic Park began their summer hours Monday.

Splash pads and wading pools are free and open every day until mid-August. 

Contact Alison Dirr at 414-224-2383 or Follow her on Twitter @AlisonDirr

About the author 

Mark Rauterkus

Swim, SKWIM and Water Polo coach and publisher in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Executive Director of SKWIM USA, a nonprofit advocate organization and webmaster to the International Swim Coaches Association. Head varsity and middle-school swim coach for The Ellis School. Former candidate for public office on multiple occasions.

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