With the summer season around the corner, Boulder’s Parks and Recreation Department has announced it will not be fully opening its pools to visitors due to a widespread staffing shortage across the department.

Although the city hired more than 200 new staff for summer 2022, it fell short of its goal to hire more than the 300 necessary for full operation at “ideal” service levels. In particular, there’s a shortage of lifeguards. The city only has about 90 of the 140 lifeguards it needs to fully open and operate Boulder’s pools.

Spruce Pool and swim facilities at South Boulder Recreation Center will remain closed to the public this summer. For the most part, the city is not reducing hours at its open pools. Instead, it is expanding hours at the facilities it says will benefit community members the most – including East Boulder Community Center, North Boulder Recreation Center, Scott Carpenter Pool and Boulder Reservoir.

The city has tried several strategies to encourage applicants. They’ve raised hourly lifeguard wages from $13.50 to $15.25, and from $14.50 to $16.50 for head lifeguards and deck supervisors, with higher rates and benefits for full-time aquatic facility lead positions. They have also begun covering the fees charged by the Red Cross for lifeguard certification. (In June, that class will cost $127, or $102 for Boulder residents or those who work in the city.)

“We’ve been working ever since the winter, for many months, to try to tackle this problem because we’ve known about this nationwide lifeguard shortage for quite a while,” Jonathan Thornton, communications manager for the Parks and Recreation Department, said 

The city has expanded its recruitment and staff retention efforts over the past few months to help offset the shortage, and will continue hiring throughout the summer. Thornton said they’ve started to look for ways to rethink how the department hires staff.

“[We’re] not just hiring for the traditional high school age and college-aged people who would fill these positions,” he said. “Maybe it’s somebody who’s a teacher who is off for the summer, or somebody who is retired and maybe just wants to use a few hours to kind of help out.” 

Megann Lohman, senior manager of recreation and facilities, said the department is trying to balance the community value of its services with the realities of the industry and labor market. 

“We obviously have a community that really loves to swim and we really want to support that as much as feasible and possible. At the same time, it’s been a trend in the aquatics industry that lifeguard positions have been less popular,” she said. “In the future, there might be opportunities to look at how the aquatics industry as a whole models its business. Can we stop thinking about lifeguards as transitional employment for high school or college kids?”

With Memorial Day Weekend ahead, here’s what you need to know about this summer’s operating hours at Boulder Parks and Recreation aquatic facilities.


East Boulder Community Center

5660 Sioux Dr.

Lap pool hours:

  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 6 a.m.–7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

Leisure pool hours:

  • Warm water walking: 
  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 6 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 8–10 a.m.

Open swim hours: 

  • Monday through Friday: 5–7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

The indoor pool (including the hot tub) is open during lap lane hours.

The pool will be open from 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m. on Memorial Day weekend. Open swim will be available from 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

North Boulder Recreation Center

3170 Broadway

Lap pool hours: 

  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 4:30 p.m.–8 p.m.
  • Tuesday and Thursday: 6 a.m.–8 p.m.
  • Saturday: 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

Leisure pool hours:

  • Monday through Friday: 5–8 p.m. 
  • Saturday: 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

The hot tub and sauna will be open during lap pool hours.

The pool will be open from 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m. on Memorial Day weekend. 

Scott Carpenter Pool

1505 30th St.

Lap pool hours: 

  • Monday through Thursday: 6 a.m.–8 p.m. 
  • Friday: 6 a.m.–7 p.m.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Leisure pool hours:

  • Monday through Sunday: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

Water slides and the lazy river may be closed depending on the pool’s staffing levels.

The leisure pool will be open from 1 p.m.–6 p.m. on Memorial Day. The facility will be closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Boulder Reservoir
5565 51st St.

General hours:

  • Monday through Sunday: 6 a.m.–8 p.m.

Swim beach hours:

  • Monday through Sunday: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

The reservoir’s exit gate closes at 9 p.m.

Spruce Pool (CLOSED)
2102 Spruce St.

Spruce Pool will remain closed through the summer due to the staffing shortage.

South Boulder Recreation Center (CLOSED)
1360 Gillaspie Dr.

The pool area at South Boulder Recreation Center is currently closed for repairs. The city does not anticipate reopening the pool this summer after construction is complete due to the staffing shortage.

The sauna will be open during the recreation center’s regular hours.

The city expects its staffing levels and pool availability to change throughout the season. Its detailed pool schedule spreadsheet is updated each week with more information.

Henry Larson was a summer 2022 reporting fellow at Boulder Reporting Lab. He was the editor-in-chief of the CU Independent, the University of Colorado Boulder’s digital student news outlet. His reporting has also appeared in CPR News and The Daily Camera.