Due to limited staffing, Greenwood Street Beach will be closed “until further notice,” Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson told the RoundTable. Evanstonians can still spend time at the beach, but the water will be closed, she said.
The city currently employs 74 lifeguards, a noticeable decrease from last year, when more than 90 lifeguards supervised the beaches.
“It’s what’s happening nationally,” said Thompson. Municipalities across the country are experiencing a lifeguard shortage, due to the many job opportunities available now that the pandemic is coming to an end.
Life guarding is also a very challenging job, and other positions provide more competitive wages, said Thompson. In comparison to last year, the city increased its starting wage for life guarding, which is now $16.50, she added.
Thompson said she believes Evanston’s lifeguard shortage is unrelated to the sexual harassment allegations made against lakefront staff last year.
The city decided to close Greenwood Street Beach because it is the beach that’s frequented the least, she said.
“If there are people who want to apply to be a lifeguard they definitely can apply, but it’s not as simple as just signing up to be a lifeguard,” said Thompson. All lifeguards must be certified by the United States Lifeguard Association (USLA), and if there’s enough interest, the city will organize another class to train more potential lifeguards.
“We will make sure that people are safe, and then if that means closing one beach, that’s what we need to do,” she said.
Greenwood Street Beach was closed this weekend, leaving beach-goers disappointed. “It’s really upsetting that that beach was closed, just because of staffing,” said Garry Chankin, a Northbrook resident who frequents Greenwood Street Beach. “It just doesn’t seem right.”
Chankin said the beach is his favorite spot in Evanston. He particularly loves the view of the Chicago skyline to the south and Northwestern University’s campus to the north.
Parking is also convenient, making it easy to transport food, bags and chairs, he said. Chankin said he feels the city should have tried harder to keep the beach open. He said, “It seems irresponsible.”