TRURO — A Cape-wide struggle to recruit staff for summer recreation programs has been most public in Truro. Signs advertising the jobs flanked Route 6, offering $2,500 signing bonuses.
The strategy worked — sort of. With four full-time and three part-time staff, Truro will run a full-day recreation program, but registration is limited to children of year-round working Truro residents, with just 25 to 30 participants as opposed to 100 in previous years.
Recreation Director Damion Clements said difficulty staffing the program was directly tied to a lack of affordable housing on the Outer Cape.
“We had hired staff and lifeguards who had to decline the offer because they couldn’t find anywhere to live that wasn’t too expensive,” said Clements.
In Eastham, Great Pond and Wiley Park, the two pond-front beaches historically staffed by up to 10 Eastham lifeguards, will sport empty chairs for the second summer in a row because of a lack of lifeguard applicants. Eastham residents will also miss out on the swimming lessons historically offered by the lifeguards. Recreation Director Christine Mickle attributed the change to a combination of Covid aftereffects and the relative difficulty of the job in relation to the pay: $18 to $20 per hour.
“The swimming lessons were one of our best programs,” said Mickle, acknowledging disappointment. She recalled that, in the past, up to 200 children took swimming lessons over the course of a summer. She is optimistic about the future, though.
“We’re going to be working on things in the off-season to hopefully drum up interest and bring back swimming lessons for next year,” said Mickle.
Eastham’s summer recreation programs will run from July 5 to Aug. 12, with the option for an extended day from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. The program is open only to Eastham children enrolled in the local schools. This marks a decrease in size from previous years, when anyone, including part-time residents, could take part in rec programs.
Wellfleet fared well in comparison; the town will offer its usual summer recreation program with a few adjustments. Morning programs are open to all (though more costly for nonresidents), running from 9 a.m. to noon. Afternoon programs will be available only for working Wellfleet resident families who rely on the program for child care. Flyers on the afternoon program were sent home with the students at the Wellfleet Elementary School. So far, 168 children have registered for the rec program, three more than last year’s total.
“Our rec program is very dynamic, with all of the new upgrades we’ve gotten in the last couple of years,” said Director Becky Rosenberg.
She pointed to the town’s new tennis and pickleball courts and pavilion. The increased demand coupled with the Outer-Cape-wide staffing shortage required that afternoon rec and swimming lessons be limited to Wellfleet resident children.
Wellfleet’s beaches will be fully staffed. Head Lifeguard Jody Craven reported “an abundance of staff,” with 35 full- and part-time guards, most of them returnees. As a teacher at Nauset Regional High School, Craven has been able to recruit students for the jobs. Wellfleet’s more competitive wages of $20 to $30 per hour as well as the opportunity to guard on ocean beaches make the position attractive, he said.
The Provincetown summer rec program will run from July 5 through Sept. 2 and is open to all, but priority is given to residents of Provincetown. Recreation Director Brandon Motta said he, too, struggled to recruit enough staff. The rec dept. squeaked by, though, and, with 11 staff members, Provincetown will operate its summer program at 90-percent capacity.
“With our very seasonal economy, families need to be at work from the end of school to the start of school, so they need child-care options,” said Motta. “It is vital we offer our rec program to our residents to do our part to support the workforce.”