At Weirs Beach in Laconia, a sign in big block letters reads “Warning... Swim at your own risk.” More than halfway through the summer, beach-goers are swimming in the bay, while the lifeguard stand remains empty.
Laconia, like many other towns in the state, is struggling to find seasonal workers. Last year, the city had nine lifeguards on staff for its five public beaches. This year, all thirteen openings have remained vacant.
Officials with Laconia's Parks and Recreation Department say they're doing everything they can think of to attract applicants for the lifeguard jobs.
“We’ve put ads in the papers, flyers in high schools,” said Amy Lovisek, the Director of Laconia Parks and Recreation. “We’ve done a program where we are reimbursing the potential employees for their certification.”
Lovisek says the lack of applicants is making the department rethink their hiring strategies.
“Our retirees could totally do the jobs, but they look at a lifeguard position and think ‘oh that’s for the kids.' I disagree with that wholeheartedly” said Lovisek. “I think that’s an age I would like to tap into.”
Lynn Harkins from Manchester, who was visiting Weirs Beach with her grandson and other family members, thinks the position needs to be filled as soon as possible.
“Well I think it’s dangerous,” said Harkins. “Honestly some parents don’t keep a real close eye and I’ve seen some kids go out really far before their parents recognize. And we’ve had quite a few drownings already in the New England area.”
City officials say the lack of lifeguards isn't keeping people from visiting the beach.