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Lake McDonough closed to swimming until further notice as lifeguard shortages hit Connecticut beaches

The boat launch remains open seven days a week.

BARKHAMSTED, Conn. — Lake McDonough in Barkhamsted will be closed off from swimming until further notice due to lifeguard staffing shortages, officials said.

The Metropolitan District (MDC) made the announcement Thursday, just before the Memorial Day weekend.

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The lake requires lifeguards to be present and does not have a "swim at your own risk" policy, the MDC said. The corporation does not know yet if the swimming area will open up at a later point in the season this year.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is also seeing the impacts; Water Safety Coordinator Sarah Battistini said they have 50 to 60 lifeguards right now, but they need more to reach their goal of 100.

"When we have all of our numbers filled like we do at Rocky Neck and Hammonasset you’ll have that extra layer of lifeguard protection daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.," she said. “Our big push for our lifeguard coverage is for memorial day weekend so you’ll start to see lifeguards phase into employment and working on the beaches this Saturday and then we’ll ramp up our guard coverage from there.” 

DEEP is still looking for lifeguards at Silver Sand State Park in Milford and Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, as well as their inland parks.

Battistini said they need to fill the positions by mid-June, which is in time for staff to get trained ahead of the July 4th weekend. 

DEEP has even boosted the starting salary up to $17 an hour for most positions and higher for some other jobs. 

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As for Lake McDonough, staffing shortages are nothing new, according to a spokesperson for MDC. Operating hours were reduced in 2019 due to staffing shortages at the time, the spokesperson told FOX61.

Since then, Lake McDonough beach has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this upcoming season, MDC searched for about a dozen lifeguards through online postings and local swim clubs, but only received a few applications.

The job postings are currently down as the corporation assesses the next steps, MDC said.

The boat launch remains open seven days a week, and boating season passes and day passes are available for purchase online.

For more information on the State Parks Lifeguard Program and lifeguard applications, click here.

RELATED: DEEP urges water safety as boaters take to the water for the first time this season

Elisha Machado is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at emachado@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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