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New Buffalo struggles to staff lifeguards

WSBT 22 Photo.

It's going to be a beautiful beach weekend.

While the beaches will be filled, some lifeguard stands will not.

New Buffalo still doesn't have a lifeguard staff.

New Buffalo city officials told WSBT 22 back in late May that they hoped to have lifeguards by mid-June.

It's July, and families are still swimming at their own risk.

Rachel Gaspard has been coming to New Buffalo since she was a child.

She has to change how her own kids enjoy the beach knowing no lifeguards are there to save them.

"I definitely kept them closer to the shore," said Gaspard. "They had to stay within listening distance which was difficult because of the wind. Absolutely, they couldn't go out into the waves and enjoy it as much as they typically would have."

The city didn't approve a lifeguard program until late April after buckling under public pressure.

Head lifeguard Faith Hoekstra was hired, but she says finding other lifeguards is difficult.

Most quailifed people already had jobs by the time New Buffalo started looking.

She says across the country there aren't as many people interested.

"I think it's kind of a changing situation where life-guarding used to be like the cool high school right of passage," said Hoekstra. "Now for whatever it's not. Either the pay is not right or there's just lots of other stuff to do."

Hoekstra currently patrols the beach on weekends and holidays.

Two new lifeguards are in the process of being trained.

"If New Buffalo can preservere and get it all back running, I think we could be a good example for other towns around too," said Hoekstra.

Hoekstra is also looking ahead to next year.

She says the job will be posted earlier in the year.

She is also looking into starting a junior lifeguard program to get younger teenagers interested in the job.

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