Last year, the city of Oxford had to close its pool at certain times because of a shortage of lifeguards. Oxford Park Commission leaders are working to ensure that doesn’t happen this summer.
Kris Brasher, administrator and aquatics director for the Oxford Park Commission, began working for the group last April after working 19 years at North Mississippi Regional Center.
Last summer, problems arose when a number of lifeguards left due to work or other commitments. This caused the pool to close at certain times last summer when the OPC did not have the required amount of lifeguards on watch.
“When the number of lifeguards dwindled towards the end of last summer, we had to close the pool on days where we couldn’t meet the adequate number of lifeguards to watch over swimmers, specifically little kids,” Brasher said.
OPC Board member Mike McGee said he wants to make sure this does not happen again. Brasher said he wants to hire more lifeguards for this summer and have them certified through a lifeguard training class that would take place at the Courtyard Marriott’s pool.
The OPC pool will not be open in time. Brasher wants to make sure each lifeguard is properly trained and officially certified before the OPC pool opens.
The lifeguards have been a mix of local students. Fewer have come from the university because many college students work at the Turner Center. Lifeguards usually earn certification through training at the Turner Center, but the Turner Center will close for six weeks for renovations, and its pool will not be open.
“I think this is going to be good for our lifeguard count,” Brasher said. “The regular Turner Center lifeguards will be out of work for six weeks, so I hope they can come and work at our pool during that time. It’s going to be a great opportunity for them.”
Lifeguard applications are flooding in, and Brasher said he is hopeful he will not have the same problem as last summer with a short staff.
“If the recruitment process keeps going this well, we’ll have the ideal amount, which is 20 lifeguards,” Brasher said. “Last summer, we were left with eight.”
“Most of the newer applicants have not gone through the lifeguard certification process yet, but with the class at the Marriott, they will be prepared in time,” Brasher said.
Brasher has fun ideas for swimmers this summer, including a large obstacle course called the Wibbit. “We purchased it last summer and tried to use it,” he said, “but the pool was closed before we could. The kids were really disappointed, but we’re excited to finally use it.”
Brasher hopes this summer will be very successful, and he said he is receiving new applicants for summer lifeguards every day.
Several OPC program leaders are preparing for a successful summer and recruiting new hands to help. At the last Oxford Park Commission Board meeting, community leaders discussed summer plans and gave updates about programs.
The Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi was one of various organizations that volunteered with the Special Olympics last month at the Turner Center.
The Running Club plans to hold track events throughout the year, and Recreation Director Felisa Bonner discussed running a day camp throughout the summer.
Executive Director Seth Gaines talked about grants and scholarships for the Oxford Park Commission’s summer internship program. Commission leaders also approved hiring an umpire, assigning contracts, hiring a seasonal maintenance worker, and the Healthy Heroes Grant for an outdoor basketball court. The location is yet to be determined, but it will include picnic tables and cost around $20,000.
Gaines said young adults are selected to work throughout the summer for the internship program. Last summer, the program retained six interns.
“The majority of interns are undergraduate university students, but not all have been from the University of Mississippi,” Gaines said. “We’ve hired interns from other universities, even our state rival Mississippi State.”