Lifeguard shortage will leave some P.E.I. provincial beaches unsupervised

Some provincial beaches on P.E.I. will be without supervision this summer for the first time in more than a decade because the province can’t find anyone to staff them.

Chelton Provincial Park won't be staffed this summer, Northumberland only on weekends

Lifeguard chair on beach with no lifeguard in it
Some provincial beaches won't be supervised at all this summer. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Some provincial beaches on P.E.I. will be without supervision this summer for the first time in more than a decade because the province can't find anyone to staff them.

Provincial park officials say they're struggling to find qualified lifeguards, leaving five to seven full-time positions still vacant.

Matthew Smith, Parks P.E.I.'s provincial lifeguard co-ordinator, says some provincial parks will have no supervision at all this summer, while others will have limited supervision.

Chelton Provincial Park will be completely unsupervised, while Northumberland Provincial Park will only have lifeguards on the weekends.

"We reviewed our statistics and tried to make as best of a decision as possible to close what parks we needed to so that we could ensure we can have a full complement of lifeguards safely supervising as many parks as possible on a consistent schedule for locals and tourists," Smith said.

Signs will be installed to warn beachgoers when beaches aren't supervised, and rescue rings and other emergency equipment will remain on site.

Smith said the decisions were based on incident statistics over the last number of years, the number of people who visit a beach, and its proximity to other parks that will have lifeguards.

Fewer training courses due to pandemic

The goal, Smith said, is to provide a consistent schedule so locals and tourists can easily find parks that are supervised.

"Our fear was to have one beach open one day but not the next, so that's why we opted to look at the statistics and the geography and be able to clearly and openly communicate with members of the public," he said.

Beach with people in water and on sand.
Parks Canada says it has filled its lifeguard positions for the summer, so beaches like Brackley and Cavendish will remain supervised as usual. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"I'm confident that the lifeguards on our parks that we are capable of supervising are going to be supervising beach goers at a high level of care."

According to the province, fewer training courses have been offered the last few years as pools were closed due to the pandemic, and some hands-on training was more difficult to access.

The province is looking to help train more people to help head off another staffing shortage next summer.

Parks Canada, meanwhile, says it has been able to hire enough lifeguards so beaches like Brackley and Cavendish will be supervised the same way they have been in the past.

With files from Laura Meader


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