Email signup

Park Authority grapples with staffing challenges during busy summer

A lifeguard at The Water Mine in Reston (via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube)

A shortage of seasonal workers has the Fairfax County Park Authority straining to stay afloat at the time of year when many of its facilities — from swimming pools to the Scotts Run Nature Preserve — tend to be busiest.

The agency announced last week that the visitor center at Huntley Meadows Park in Hybla Valley will have reduced hours throughout August, citing difficulties in recruiting staff. While the park itself will remain open from dawn to dusk, the visitor center’s indoor exhibits and public restrooms are currently only available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Though that has been the most long-lasting impact, the capacity limitations have also forced facilities to close early or not open at all some days, and some programs have been curtailed “on occasion,” FCPA spokesperson Judith Pedersen said in a statement to FFXnow:

It has been a very difficult season for the Park Authority in terms of hiring seasonal employees. In large measure, a shortage of applicants and COVID-19 illnesses have made it hard to staff our facilities and programs. On occasion we have had to close facilities or curtail programs or classes due to staff shortages. Conversely, our staff has stepped up to fill those gaps, work extra shifts or manage the situation to avoid closures and cancellations. We continue to be challenged with a shortage of lifeguards both for indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities.

According to Pedersen, the park authority can have as many as 1,600 to 1,700 non-merit employees, meaning part-time, seasonal or temporary workers. The agency hires 600 to 700 workers for each summer season, which runs from May through September.

Though the park authority didn’t provide the specific number of vacancies it has, its webpage for summer hires lists 15 different kinds of available positions, from lifeguards and camp leaders to a Sully Historic Site maintenance assistant.

The park authority has offered $100 sign-up and retention bonuses to summer workers, along with free access to all of the county’s recreation centers throughout the season.

Pedersen says FCPA has also increased its salaries and made a concerted recruiting push through social media, virtual hiring fairs, and drive-up interviews.

Fairfax County isn’t alone in struggling to staff pools and other recreational facilities this summer. Reston Association closed two pools for multiple days last month, and looking nationally, more than half of the pools in Pennsylvania’s state parks are closed or have shortened hours.

The American Lifeguard Association estimated in June that insufficient staff would affect a third of pools in the country, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said a slowdown in temporary international workers has contributed to the labor shortage.

In Fairfax County, the park authority continues to adapt to the changing circumstances, seeking to provide the facilities and programming that residents expect without compromising safety or the quality of its services.

“It is a balancing act between the absolute need for safety to be paramount, and our desire to meet the recreational needs and desires of the public,” Pedersen said.

Screenshot via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube

Recent Stories

This past week saw 145 homes sold in Fairfax County. The least expensive condo, single-family home or townhouse sale over the past seven days was $152,500 while the most expensive…

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors recently got a preview of what future transit connections between Tysons and Maryland could look like. At a transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 31),…

Getting court time at Glyndon Park in Vienna may be tougher going forward for pickleball players. In the hopes of alleviating noise complaints from nearby residents, the Vienna Town Council…

A new exhibit featuring intricate embroidery on leaves is set to open soon at Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art‘s satellite gallery in Reston Town Center. Artist Hillary Waters Fayle’s work,…

Need help dealing with anxiety, depression or stress?

If you’re struggling to cope with anxiety, depression or stress, our virtual psychotherapy services can help. We offer a confidential and convenient service that’s tailored to your needs.

In our practice, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) is an important tool we use to provide effective relief for those facing anxiety and depression. We believe that cognitive change can be used to improve behaviors and emotions, thus allowing you to achieve mental wellness. By understanding the cognitive distortions that lead to negative thought patterns, we are able to create interventions tailored to each of our clients. This empowering approach can help you gain control of how your own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors impact your experience. With CBT, our service provides an effective treatment that can bring long-term change and mental stability.

Book a free consultation today and see how we can help you live a happier and healthier life.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list