When the temperature begins to inch over the 90-degree mark, few places are better for cooling off than the Village of Saugerties beach and the Lions’ Club kiddie pool.
While the two areas couldn’t be more different, they do have something in common. They are both protected by lifeguards. A shortage of lifeguards has George Terpening, supervisor of the village’s Parks, Buildings, and Grounds Department, concerned. If a member of his staff calls out for the day, either the beach or pool would have to be closed for the day.
Village lifeguards are paid $13 an hour, and Terpening manages to get them each about 40 hours a week. For a high-school senior or college student, few summer jobs are better. Working outdoors, protecting the public, getting a great tan, and being paid to do it may beat flipping burgers.
“I think it’s the time and cost of getting the certification that keeps more people from becoming lifeguards,” Terpening said.
Mason Winnie, back for his second year as a lifeguard, said the lifeguard accreditation course is 40 hours long and can cost anywhere between $300 and $400. “And not everyone has the time or the transportation to get to where the courses are offered,” he said. But he quickly added, “You can make that up in a week working here.”
The American Red Cross offers lifeguard certification programs, as does SUNY New Paltz, which is the place Nick Fabiano went for certification. Fabiano, another Saugerties lifeguard, said the SUNY program costs about the same as the Red Cross program but is done in three days rather than over the course of a week.
For the industrious lifeguard, there is plenty of work. Fabiano is also a lifeguard for the Hurley Rec Department pool. He said he loves the work, likes being outdoors and likes working with people.
Winnie agreed that working with the kids and most of the adults is a great way to make money for college. He is getting a reputation as a lifesaver, too. Both last year and again this year, Winnie has had to rescue someone who was in trouble while in the water – last year an adult, this year a youngster.
Terpening said that he is frequently asked when the village is going to offer swimming lessons. He said he’d love to do so at the beach, which is the only swimming spot where it’s deep enough and large enough to offer lessons.
Once again, the problem is training. “It’s the same problem we have with getting lifeguards,” he said. “There just aren’t certified instructors around.” A certified swim instructor is even more schooling for a person, “and people just don’t seem to have the time.”
Changes are afoot for the beach, too.
The village beach was devastated several years ago, when this part of New York was slammed by Super Storm Sandy, along with Lee and Irene. To mitigate that damage, the state gave the village a grant of $300,000 to restore the park at the beach, including replacing the docks and the boat ramp. Terpening said new docks and a new boat ramp will be constructed at the beach later this summer.
Additionally, two long ramps will be extended into the Esopus Creek and a ramped-off swimming area will be created with lanes for swimming for possible use by a local swim team.
The beach area will get more sand, new plantings, and a drainage system that will help prevent future storm damage.
Terpening is optimistic. “This should all be completed in August and September,” he said. “And if anyone would like to be a lifeguard here, just drop off an application at the village hall at 43 Partition Street.”