ESCNABA — While the first official day of summer is June 21, work is underway to prepare local beaches for those seeking the lakeside getaway. From cleaning facilities to prepping the sand, city employees are working to have the beaches ready to go by the third week of June for community members to enjoy.
This year’s water levels are promising for a successful beach season, with Little Bay de Noc’s water levels being much lower than they were a year ago. Decreasing water levels is great news for local beaches, which now have extended space for beach loungers and sand castle creations.
“You know the lower the lake levels the bigger the beach we have, so this year the beach is gearing up to be great,” Jason Davis, parks and recreation director in Gladstone, said. “Water levels are still coming down from their peak in 2020, but they are certainly down from what they were this time last year.”
The Gladstone Recreation Department has begun preparing the beach and surrounding area for summer swimmers. Along with clearing walkways of winter-blown sand and cleaning shower and bathroom facilities, the beach itself will be given a treatment as well.
“We will be having a beach grater go over [the beach] a few times,” Davis said. “That will pick up any debris that is still there from the winter and have it looking really nice.”
The Escanaba Beach is rebounding from last year’s limited beach size as well.
“The beach is much larger than it was last year,” Kim Peterson, Escanaba recreation department director, said. “We have the lifeguards going down there this week to clean the area up. They will be raking the beach, getting rid of all the beach grass, and then cleaning the showers and bathrooms.”
In terms of staffing, the country has been facing a lifeguard shortage since pools and businesses began to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic. As pools across the country closed down due to COVID precautions, some lifeguards sought employment elsewhere while others failed to keep up with the training requirements necessary to work.
“Because all lifeguards must be certified by the YMCA, staffing has been very difficult for the beach,” Peterson said. “We are still in need of lifeguards.”
The limited number of lifeguards employed by the Escanaba Recreation Department has led to the cancellation of its summer swim lesson program for the upcoming season. The ability to teach swim lessons requires a level of certification beyond your standard lifeguard training.
“Teaching swim lessons requires a different and special certification from the YMCA that not all of our lifeguards have,” Peterson said. “Only one of our lifeguards has it right now and you need six to have swim lessons.”
The Gladstone Recreation Department is collaborating with the YMCA for the upcoming summer season to staff their beach.
“Because there is a shortage in our area, [the YMCA’s] staff will be coming down to our beach and working,” Davis said. “Lifeguards are all set for the summer, and contracting with the YMCA worked out pretty well this summer.”
All facilities at the Escanaba beach, including the outside rinse stations, indoor changing room, showers, and restrooms, will be open the third week of June. From then, the beach will stay open seven days a week from 12 to 7 pm
Swim ropes, benches, and the tiki huts will be put up at the Gladstone Beach in the next couple of weeks, along with their two-slide play structure that sits 100-feet offshore. In addition to these amenities, the Gladstone Beach House will be hosting the Summer Concert Series every Thursday night starting June 16. This event has a new feature debuting for the summer 2022 season.
“New this year for our Summer Concert Series we will be having food vendors booked for the concerts, so they will be there every Thursday night,” Davis said. “The vendor line-up is pretty packed right now for Thursdays, so that is exciting.”
The Gladstone Beach House’s concession stand will not be returning this summer, but Davis plans to have food vendors scheduled throughout the summer weekends as well.