Andie Balenger | Daily Press Escanaba Beach has increased in size from last year due to lower lake water levels. The city plans to open the beach seven days a week starting the third week of June, with lifeguards present from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

ESCANABA – While the official first day of summer is June 21, work is underway to prepare local beaches for those looking for a lakeside getaway. From cleaning facilities to preparing sand, city employees are working to get the beaches ready by the third week of June for community members to enjoy.

This year’s water levels are promising for a successful beach season, with water levels at Little Bay de Noc much lower than they were a year ago. Falling water levels are great news for local beaches, which now have expanded space for lounge chairs and sandcastle creations.

“You know, the lower the lake level, the bigger the beach we have, so this year the beach is gearing up to be awesome,” Jason Davis, director of parks and recreation at Gladstone, said. “Water levels are still down from their 2020 peak, but they are certainly down from where they were this time last year.”

The Gladstone Recreation Department has begun preparing the beach and surrounding areas for summer swimmers. Along with cleaning the walkways of winter-blown sand and cleaning the showers and bathrooms, the beach itself will also get a treatment.

“We’re going to run a beach grater [the beach] sometimes,” Davis said. “It will pick up all the debris that’s still there from winter and make it look really nice.”

Escanaba Beach also rebounds from last year’s limited beach size.

“The beach is much bigger than last year,” Kim Peterson, director of Escanaba’s recreation department, said. “We have the lifeguards going there this week to clean up the area. They will rake the beach, get rid of all the beach grass, then clean the showers and bathrooms.

In terms of personnel, the country has faced a shortage of lifeguards since swimming pools and businesses began to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic. As swimming pools across the country closed due to COVID precautions, some lifeguards sought employment elsewhere while others failed to meet the educational requirements needed to work.

“Because all lifeguards must be certified by the YMCA, staffing has been very difficult for the beach,” said Peterson. “We always need rescuers.”

The limited number of lifeguards employed by the Escanaba Recreation Department has resulted in the cancellation of its summer swimming lesson program for the upcoming season. The ability to teach swimming lessons requires a level of certification beyond your standard lifeguard training.

“Teaching swimming lessons requires a different and special YMCA certification that not all of our lifeguards have,” said Peterson. “Only one of our lifeguards has it at the moment and you need six to get swimming lessons.”

The Gladstone Recreation Department is working with the YMCA for the upcoming summer season to staff their beach.

“Because there is a shortage in our region, [the YMCA’s] staff will come to our beach and work,” Davis said. “The lifeguards are all ready for the summer, and the contract with the YMCA has worked out pretty well this summer.”

All facilities at Escanaba Beach, including outdoor rinse stations, indoor changing rooms, showers and restrooms, will be open the third week of June. From then on, the beach will remain open seven days a week from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Swimming ropes, benches and tiki huts will be installed at Gladstone Beach in the coming weeks, along with their two-slide play structure which sits 100 feet offshore. In addition to these amenities, Gladstone Beach House will host the Summer Concert Series every Thursday evening from June 16. This event has a new feature debuting for the Summer 2022 season.

“New this year for our summer concert series, we will have food vendors booked for the concerts, so they will be there every Thursday night,” Davis said. “The vendor list is pretty busy right now for Thursdays, so that’s exciting.”

The Gladstone Beach House concession stand won’t be returning this summer, but Davis also plans to have food vendors scheduled throughout summer weekends.

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