Starting Monday, Aug. 15, only Clark and Lee beaches will be open to swimmers for the remainder of the summer season due to a shortage of lifeguards. Evanston’s Lighthouse and South Boulevard beaches will close.
The shortage is caused by staff returning to high school or college for the fall semester, according to a city news release.
“Lifeguards need to be focused and ready to respond even when there is not an apparent emergency,” Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Audrey Thompson wrote in a memo to City Council dated Aug. 2. “With the decrease in numbers of lifeguards starting on Aug. 15 there just isn’t sufficient staff to spread across the five swimming beaches.”
Clark and Lee Street beaches will be open for swimming from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day during the last three weeks of the season. But the sand areas at all beaches will still be open to the public daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The department of parks, recreation and community services made a similar move a year ago, shutting down all beaches except for Lee and Clark streets starting Aug. 16, the first day of class at Evanston Township High School for the 2021-22 year.
City staff spoke to summer beach attendants to determine which beaches to close, according to Thompson. Clark Street Beach has the most daily visitors of any Evanston beach. The city decided to keep Lee Street Beach open, as well, to leave an option available for the southern half of Evanston.
On top of those two beaches, Northwestern University also manages Lincoln Street Beach on its campus, which residents can access for free with a beach pass. That location is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, but the hours will shift to 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 22.
The city has not yet advertised any special beach openings for weekends or Labor Day, but that option is still possible on certain days. “We hope to open other beaches sporadically until Labor Day as we have more lifeguards day to day or the turnout of one beach affords this opportunity,” Thompson wrote in her memo.
This decision also comes on the heels of the city shuttering Greenwood Street Beach in June for the entire summer season also because of staffing. At the time, the city had 74 summer lifeguards on the summer payroll, compared to 90 the previous year.
Still, Thompson told the RoundTable she anticipates having enough staff to supervise potentially busier Clark and Lee Street beaches for the remainder of the summer.
“Because schools are returning earlier and earlier every year, we are losing more and more lifeguards (at least half) who are returning to school,” she said in an email. “We have assessed the coverage necessary to meet the capacity of the beaches at Clark and Lee and at this time, we feel we are ready to staff those beaches open for swimming until the end of the season.”