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Hiring bind forces lifejacket rule at The Beach

Cloquet swimming pond opens Monday

Attention, potential lifeguards: Preteens will soon be begging you to apply for a job at The Beach at Pinehurst Park this summer. That's because a staff shortage is requiring a major change in beach rules as it prepares to open Monday: All children age 12 and under will be required to wear a lifejacket while in the water.

Cloquet Community Ed director Erin Bates said the rule "applies to all, whether or not they have had swim lessons in the past." If staffing levels ramp up, the rules may be revised, Bates said. For now, she said, Community Ed is "still looking for additional lifeguards, so if anyone is interested, they can call our office."

Finding workers this spring has been a problem in Cloquet and across the country as the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Beach was closed all last summer and a nearly entirely "new crew" will be at the park Monday, Bates said. It's taken a bit to make sure the pool systems were working properly after the long layoff and for staff to get trained.

A current weeklong heat wave has increased queries about the opening and led to an uptick in the sale of seasonal passes, which until Sunday can save families $20 and individuals $10.

For now, it's a definite go for opening at noon on Monday, Bates said.

"We are feeling it," she said of the employee shortage. It's often difficult enough in a normal year to get staffed at the beach, Bates said. "It's very seasonal, and it's not always guaranteed hours," she said. "It's been challenging."

Rental of the bandshell inside the beach area will not be allowed this season, Bates said. It's another victim of the staffing shortage. The area, usually popular for birthday parties, would require too much cleanup time after use, she said. A pavilion nearby but outside the fenced beach area is available for rent. And the beach itself can be rented before or after public hours for a fee and the cost of lifeguards.

Ross Biebl, assistant director of public works for Cloquet, said getting the beach up and running at the end of May came with only one small issue with a pump, a "pleasant surprise that usually doesn't happen when a facility is shut down for so long."

The parks and recreation department has also had a struggle finding temporary summer help. Biebl said it has hired five people when it usually has eight or nine. The city upped the hourly pay rate to $13 from $10 or $11 in the past.

Beach basics

The Beach at Pinehurst Park is expected to open Monday at noon. All things are a go after the facility was closed all of last summer due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Expect some precautions at the park, such as glass dividers that were installed as pandemic protocols remained in flux. Staff expects users to be respectful of others, allowing for physical space. Mask use is not required, but those wishing to use one should feel free to do so.

• Pool hours are 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The beach may close due to thunder and lightning, cold weather (under 65 degrees), or for maintenance work.

• After Sunday, deals on seasonal passes will end. A family pass (two adults and children) is $79 now and $99 after the beach opens. Individual passes are $39 now and $49 after June 13. Family licensed childcare or group home passes are $149 (two adults and up to 12 in their care). Buy swim passes online at http://www.isd94.org/Page/399, or at the community ed office 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Daily admission is $4 per person. The group rate of 10 or more is $3.50.

• No physical seasonal pass card is required to enter; users will be assigned a number that they can recite at the gate.

• The beach has filtered, chlorinated water and a sand bottom. It has a lake-like entry, making it useful for small children. There are also swim lanes and a 6-foot center depth. Amenities include changing rooms, slides, sand volleyball court, shade umbrellas, picnic areas and concessions.

• Beach staff follow American Red Cross safety guidelines. Lifeguards are always on duty. It is suggested that users employ the buddy system and supervise young children at all times. All swimmers age 12 years old and younger will be required to wear lifejackets while in the water. Only U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices may be worn in the water.

• The bandshell at the beach will not be available in 2021 because there isn’t enough staff to clean the area after an event. The nearby pavilion is available to rent through Community Ed. The swimming area may be rented for $150 before or after regular hours. Lifeguards cost is extra.

• Contact Cloquet Community Education for updates and information at 218-879-1261 or email [email protected]. Community Ed regularly updates its beach Facebook page.

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