Assateague Island Facing Lifeguard Recruitment Challenges, Too

ASSATEAGUE – As is the case in Ocean City, Assateague Island National Seashore is also facing recruitment challenges this spring.

During a budget work session last week, Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) Captain Butch Arbin reported recruitment efforts for the upcoming season has presented challenges to the point he is not entirely confident the department will have the full complement of lifeguards to start the season. Arbin pointed to a recruiting “wage war” with neighboring Delaware, challenges with getting follow-throughs with applicants at recruiting and testing events and the high cost of seasonal housing.

A check with neighboring Assateague Island National Seashore (AINS) revealed the national park is also facing challenges with recruitment. Some of the issues are the same, although AINS boasts a high return rate for lifeguards.

Of course, the sample size is much different. The OCBP covers every block of the 10-mile barrier island along with layers of command staff, while the Assateague Island National Seashore beach patrol covers a smaller area and consequently has fewer needs. According to Chief of Interpretation and Education Liz Davis, AINS has a high return rate for its beach lifeguards.

“Luckily, we have 70% of our lifeguard staff returning this year,” she said this week. “We will hire a total of 14 guards most seasons, but we have similar issues as Ocean City.”

While the Ocean City Beach Patrol has had some trouble with follow-through in its testing and application process, including far more on-line applicants than actually show up for the physical application process, AINS has different challenges. Because the national seashore is owned by the federal government, applicants for the beach patrol and all jobs on the island must navigate the complex application and hiring site. In addition, the federal government has stringent certification requirements for lifeguards.

“National Park Service lifeguards are all trained to EMR certification and above,” said Davis. “All of our recruitment, application and hiring processes in the federal government is handled through the website. Applicants often find this process a challenge.”

Davis said AINS faces similar housing challenges as Arbin outlined, although on a smaller scale.

“We do offer housing for our seasonal employees,” she said. “Housing is difficult to find and expensive in our area.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.