For the first time anyone can remember, Lewes public beaches will be unguarded this season. A lack of lifeguards has forced the city to take the action.
Throughout summer 2021, the beaches of Lewes were guarded by eight lifeguards, two fewer than the city normally employs to patrol its beaches. Wanting to avoid an employee shortage for summer 2022, Lewes officials spoke with surrounding municipalities about the rate of pay for their lifeguards and beach patrols, and raised their hourly rate from $13.49 an hour to $16 an hour in order to remain competitive. Recruitment efforts began a few months ago and included outreach to local schools and advertisements in the Cape Gazette. Unfortunately, in early April, 16-year lifeguard veteran and now former captain, Elisha Hartman, informed Lewes officials that she would not be returning to lifeguard for the town this year, creating another job opening and a void in leadership.
Despite what the city calls rigorous recruiting efforts, only four applications were submitted for lifeguard positions, and only three of those applicants were certified, leaving the city with half the number of guards it had patrolling last year, plus inexperience issues. City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said she believes it would be inappropriate to attempt to patrol the beaches with an insufficient number of lifeguards and advertise them as being guarded. Townshend said the final decision that the city would be unable to guard the beaches was made recently, following a final push for recruitment.
Lewes officials are currently determining the best course of action moving forward and are in communication with the insurance company about the liability involved in having unguarded beaches. Early indications are that there will be prominent signage displayed at the beach, continual communication with the public regarding beach conditions, and a 911 response system coordinated by parking enforcement and possibly the Lewes Lions Club.