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Beach attendants begin work under arrangement between town and ITI

Beach attendants are now overseeing the Hay River Beach.

They will be there until about the end of August under an arrangement between the Town of Hay River and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).

The eight Hay River beach attendants – town employees working there under an arrangement with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment – include, left to right, Tyson Maher, Allen Gostick and Mattea Hoff-Rollison.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The beach attendants, who assumed their duties on June 30, are usually lifeguards at the town's swimming pool, but that facility has been closed since mid-March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I was really happy when ITI reached out to us because lifeguard and aquatic staff recruitment is already hard," said Stephane Millette, recreation director with the town, " it was good to be able to get them back to work."

Eight beach attendants have been hired. There will be at least two onsite seven days per week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"The beach is not one of our sites, but we're happy to be helping out there," said Millette.

The town is also recruiting to have additional coverage in the evening under the agreement with ITI.

In addition to lifeguarding, the beach attendants will provide a number of other services.

"There's additional requirements for them to check the beach's water depth and make sure that the area is safe, and if there are needs to put out buoys to let people know that the water level has changed or that there's a deep spot somewhere in the water that they have to monitor," said Millette, noting the attendants did additional training through the Lifesaving Society's Alberta and the NWT branch.

Under the agreement with ITI, the beach attendants are responsible for educating and reminding people of Covid-19 best practices and restrictions, such as social distancing.

"So right now at the beach they have a maximum occupancy of 100 for all people over 12 years of age," said Millette. "So the lifeguards do have to do that count several times throughout the day. And if there are too many people on the beach, they'll have to let people know that the beach is at full capacity."

Stephanie McCabe, manager of parks operations with ITI, said there are normally no lifeguards at the beach.

"The regional superintendent approached the Town of Hay River, probably about a month ago, to kind of reinstate the beach attendant program," she said, noting it previously ran for one year in 2014.

McCabe said it was an opportunity to collaborate with the Town of Hay River.

"We love to take advantage of collaborations and working together with a municipality on getting some people work during Covid," she said.

McCabe believes that beach attendants will create a better experience for Hay River residents and visitors.

"I think having beach attendants is always a good thing," she said.

McCabe pointed out that beach attendants are not caregivers for children.

"We just want to always note that all children seven years or younger in the designated swimming areas should always have a caregiver that is 16 years of age or older," she said, adding that wearing lifejackets is also encouraged.