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A shortage in seasonal workers threatens to put a damper on Rapid City’s summer fun

(KOTA)
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 12:18 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -Summer in Rapid City brings to mind public pools like The Roosevelt Swim Center with its variety of aquatic family fun, the Jimmy Hilton Pool at Sioux Park with its fountains and youth dinosaur slide, the Parkview Pool with its sand volleyball area, the Roosevelt 50 Meter Pool and others.

This summer, a severe shortage in seasonal help has the City facing a dismal outlook for its available public parks and recreation.

The warm weather also comes with other summertime activities and sights like the City’s multiple flower gardens that are interlaced throughout the community, three disc golf courses, the Canyon Lakes playground, and the approximately 1,650 acres of park lands that are perfect to picnic, play horseshoes, hit some tennis, softball and golf, go walking or jogging or just breathe our South Dakota air.

There are currently several dozen seasonal jobs that remain unfilled, and this means that Rapid City will have to make some unfortunate changes.

According to Rapid City’s Communications Coordinator, Darrell Shoemaker, without more seasonal maintenance workers, upkeep of the City’s parks and greenways could be delayed. Shoemaker indicated that without the necessary dozens of additional lifeguards, the Parks and Recreation Department may be forced to adjust the hours of operation at the City’s pools or to keep at least one of the pools closed during the summer season. Last year, the City’s pools were shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is partially to blame for this summer’s worker shortage,” said Shoemaker. “Many of the City’s retired seasonal workers have chosen not to return this summer. Some have simply decided that after last summer’s time off, they simply don’t feel like returning to work.”

Shoemaker also said that the last few years have seen a sharp decline in young people who are eager to fill summer jobs. “The trend seems to be that kids are taking on their first job at an older age than in the past.”

“We have experienced challenges with filling all of our seasonal positions in past years, but this year seems to be more profound with a serious lack of people coming forward to apply,” said City Parks and Recreation Department Director Jeff Biegler. “The Parks and Recreation Department is a terrific place to work and we encourage individuals to check out our seasonal employment opportunities.”

Biegler said that efforts to recruit seasonal help includes messaging on social media and working with school officials. The hope is that retirees and students here on school visas will see these positions as an excellent way to make extra income while also being able to spend time outdoors.

The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is also seeing a dramatic decrease in applicants for seasonal or part-time positions extending into the fall. Executive Director of the Civic Center, Craig Baltzer, said that “We are in desperate need of seasonal and part-time workers especially for this fall. We have relied on several hundred seasonal and part-time event and facility workers in the past and we are down dramatically”

Baltzer said the number of seasonal and part-time workers available to assist with events is down by as much as 75 percent. “For us, the summer is a slower time with fewer events, but come this fall, we will need several hundred more part-time and event workers to support our events and activities.”

City officials indicate the lack of applicants for seasonal and part-time employment is a national issue.

Anyone wishing to apply for seasonal positions can go online to the City’s website at www.rcgov.org .

For more information about City Parks and Recreation Department seasonal positions, contact 394-4175 or the Roosevelt Swim Center at 394-5223 for more information.

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