CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Amid a national lifeguard shortage, the Bay State is working to ensure that there will be plenty of safe swimming options for people this summer.
On Saturday, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced lifeguard services will be expanded at nearly 30 swimming areas across the state. The updated services will now keep designated swimming areas staffed with lifeguards from 10:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. either five or seven days a week depending on location.
Swimming locations in western Massachusetts with lifeguards on duty
- Chicopee – Chicopee State Park Beach
- Westfield – Lamberts Beach at Hampton Ponds State
- Westfield – Kingsley Beach at Hampton Ponds State
- Goshen – DAR Day Use Beach
- Erving – Laurel Lake Beach
Beachgoers at one of those sites, Chicopee State Park, told 22News that the safety measures are appreciated.
“Kids have to be safe and other adults as well. So it’s good to know that we’ve got enough lifeguards to take care of our swimming,” said John Reed from Chicopee.
Massachusetts Designated Swimming Area Schedule
“The Massachusetts state parks system is made up of popular ocean beaches and inland waterfronts that offer some of the best recreational swimming in the state and we are excited to welcome visitors to these locations,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “Safety at our waterfronts is of the utmost priority to the Baker-Polito Administration and we continue to recruit lifeguards who are dedicated to ensuring residents and visitors are able to experience these exceptional waterfronts in a safe environment all season long.”
The move comes amid a national lifeguard shortage that’s led to a number of drowning deaths including here in Massachusetts. There were 47 drowning deaths in the commonwealth in 2021, down from a record 125 drowning deaths in 2020. To prevent deaths, the DCR continues to offer incentives for lifeguards, including higher hourly wages.
“Well, when I was a teenager having a job sitting on the beach looked really attractive. I’m not sure why kids today don’t want to do it, but it might take more money in their paychecks to get them interested in this work,” said Dick Powers of Florence.
In addition to addressing the staffing shortage, the DCR reminds beachgoers of simple safety precautions they can take on their own:
- Only swim at or within designated swimming areas. Swimming outside of the designated swimming areas, or at waterfronts where swimming is prohibited can be dangerous;
- Use the buddy system and always tell someone where you are going;
- Keep a close eye on children near the water. Parents and other guardians serve as the first and primary line of safety for their children;
- Teach children to always ask permission before going near the water;
- Avoid consuming alcohol or drugs;
- Drink lots of water;
- Don’t dive headfirst into the water;
- Do not swim during a storm or when there is lightning;
- Make sure you know how to swim. If you can’t swim, keep to shallow areas or use a U.S. Coast Guard-guard approved life jacket;
- Don’t swim beyond your skillset;
- If caught in a rip current, don’t swim against it. Swim parallel to the shoreline to escape it, and then at an angle toward the beach;
- When in a boat, wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket; and,
- If a person in your group goes missing, check the water and notify lifeguards and park staff.
The DCR will also be providing free swimming lessons to adults and children in selected areas starting in July.
The DCR has been testing water quality at designated swimming areas since Memorial Day Weekend. A rope and buoys also mark these locations, so individuals know where to swim. Despite the presence of lifeguards at many DCR beaches and waterfront locations, everyone should still exercise caution when visiting state beaches, waterfronts, and other swimming areas.