Evanston closes Greenwood Street Beach for the summer due to shortage of lifeguards

Cate Cauguiran Image
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Lifeguard shortage forces Evanston to close Greenwood Street Beach
The city of Evanston, in an effort to keep the rest of its swimming-friendly lakefront open, closed one of its beaches amid a critical shortage of lifeguards.

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- The city of Evanston, in an effort to keep the rest of its swimming-friendly lakefront open, closed Greenwood Street Beach amid a critical shortage of lifeguards.

On the longest day of the year, with some of the hottest temperatures in years, the iconic lakefront in Chicago and its suburbs is still without enough lifeguards.

"There has to be some other incentives by the city of Chicago, city of Evanston, just to up the ante a little bit and make it more palatable for teenagers," said Chris Tirres.

The empty lifeguard stands are yet another unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There's a shortage of overall of people working," said Audrey Thompson, director of the Parks and Recreation Department for the city of Evanston. "It's not just on the lakefront."

And it's not just here. The American Lifeguard Association said the national, critical shortage of lifeguards has forced beach and lakefront cities like Chicago and Evanston to make tough decisions.

"We just want to make sure that all of our residents are safe," said Thompson. "If that means closing a beach, that means closing the beach."

Multiple would-be swimmers were turned away from Greenwood Street Beach Monday after the city announced it would remain closed for the rest of the summer.

"We wanted to make sure that we have enough lifeguards on the more populated beaches, just to ensure safety," Thompson said.

The city said Greenwood is still open for other water recreational sports.

"It's kind of a great thing for sailors and folks who have water craft," Tirres said.

"It's a shame; it makes it difficult for people to be able to enjoy our gorgeous lakefront," said Marella Landis.

The American lifeguard Association estimates the lifeguard shortages impacts one third of U.S. swimming pools, and that number is expected to grow to half of all public pools nationwide by August, when many teenage lifeguards go back to school.

The Chicago Park District has pushed back opening public pools from June 24 to July 5.

Public health experts are concerned that less lifeguards this summer will increase risk of serious injuries or drownings, making the call for certified lifeguards more important than ever.