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Connecticut boosts pay to lure summer staff for state parks

May 27, 2022 GMT

MADISON, Conn. (AP) — As the summer season kicks off with the Memorial Day weekend, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is still attempting to fill lifeguard and other seasonal positions, despite increasing the compensation.

DEEP has boosted the starting salary up to $17 an hour for most positions, and higher for some other jobs.

“Unfortunately, Connecticut is in a similar situation to many of the other states,” said Tom Tyler, director of state parks, in an email. “We are still aggressively recruiting more folks for positions across the state, in particularly in the western part of the state and most particularly in the northwest part of the state.”

Despite the staffing challenges, Tyler said the agency will be “at least minimally staffed enough to open all of our state parks and forest recreation areas to the public and do not have plans, at this time, to limit facilities or reduced hours.” He said DEEP also plans to open all 14 campgrounds over the holiday weekend.

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States and local governments across the country have reported having challenges finding summer help. Many have increased pay to lure applicants.

Tyler said lifeguards continue to be a key focus as the state attempts to fill as many positions as possible at the eight sites where DEEP typically provides lifeguards. During a news conference on Friday at Hammonasset Beach State Park, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said the locations that still need lifeguards include Black Rock State Park in Watertown, Burr Pond State Park in Torrington, Indian Wells State Park in Shelton, Sherwood Island in Westport, Silver Sands State Park in Milford and Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield.

“We’re looking to bring people on board ahead of the July Fourth weekend,” she said. “Right now we’re focused on the recruiting so we can avoid having to curtail any services.”

Tyler said recruitment efforts will continue until June 17, the deadline to get new hires on board and trained in time for July Fourth. To help broaden the pool of lifeguard applicants, the state is recruiting untrained people, aged 16 and older, who have a strong swimming ability. DEEP, Tyler said, will pay them for their time to be trained and certified.

DEEP has created a special web page for where people can apply for seasonal jobs, maintenance workers, seasonal park rangers, interpretive guides, first aid attendants, resource assistants, seasonal maintainers, office assistants and seasonal Special Conservation Officers.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday urged residents take advantage of the state’s Passport to Parks program, which allows all visitors driving in Connecticut-registered vehicles to enter a park without paying a parking fee. The cost of the program is covered by a $15 fee on non-commercial motor vehicle registrations.

Meanwhile, DEEP and the Connecticut Department of Transportation will offer an expanded free transit service from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day to various state parks through the ParkConneCT program.