(WHTM) — Midstate pools may have a hard time opening this summer with a lifeguard shortage in the Commonwealth and nationwide.

“We need to address the bigger picture, and that is lifeguards nationally are not being recognized as the professionals that they are,” said Wyatt Werneth, National Spokesperson for the American Lifeguard Association.

For many public parks departments and private recreational facilities, it looks like this will be another summer with delayed openings for pools if they can even open at all because there aren’t enough lifeguards to go around.

“And lifeguarding, which is a critical part of any city’s tourism, and protecting and saving lives on the ocean front, and keeping people coming to those tourist destinations and we’re being overlooked as well as budget, pay, and respect,” said Wyatt.

According to the CDC, about 91,000,000 people over the age of 16 swim in oceans, lakes, and rivers each year in the United States, and many millions more enjoy pools.

But without lifeguards, it’s very risky.

“Anywhere that there’s water, open water, pool, and the established place to invite people to come. If you don’t have lifeguards there, you’re going to have a problem, you’re going to have the training, you’re going to have incidents, so not having lifeguards is not good for tourism not good for the community and definitely not good for you know preventing dangers,” said Werneth.

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Drowning is among the leading causes of death for kids and young teens and across the Midstate in recent years. The lack of lifeguards has forced pools and lakes to either shorten their seasons or cancel them altogether.

“It’s important that we have lifeguards. It’s a safety issue, it’s a life-saving job that again has a very unique opportunity to prevent people from getting into danger,” said Werneth.

And without lifeguards, safety has to take precedence over summer fun.