Glenwood Springs approves Parks and Rec request to add more full-time staff, increase wages

Staffing shortage impacting quality of services and park maintenance

The Glenwood Springs City Council voted 7-0 to increase part-time lifeguard and maintenance worker pay to $16 per hour and add two full-time lifeguards and two full-time parks positions.

The approved motion also included providing signing bonuses to encourage recruitment and retention.

The changes would cost a total of $352,330, which would be offset by a 33% increase in park shelter rental fees, $200 million in unallocated stimulus funds and reallocating funds already within the parks and recreation budget, according to Parks and Recreation Director Brian Smith.

Smith said the department is currently drowning under the workload due to being seriously understaffed.

“When we shut down and laid off 118 staff we effectively wiped out everything we’ve built over the last 20 years. As we re-opened only 13 staff have come back,” Smith said during the presentation.

The department has 14 positions currently posted. An additional 16 positions need to be filled that are not currently posted.

“In some cases, people stay in the job for only a few weeks. Staff are being poached by other agencies,” Smith’s presentation stated. “As a public agency we are unable to compete with private for-profit enterprises.”

The expensive cost of housing in Glenwood Springs was also noted as why the city is failing to hire and retain employees at the current wages.

“Cost of living has increased dramatically in our valley with estimates putting us around 135% of the national average,” Smith said.

“Developers whose attitude and response to the affordable housing discussion is ‘cry me a river’ do our community a disservice, because it is the residents who are crying a river to me every week as I field complaint after complaint on the condition of our parks, trails, and availability of recreation programs and facilities. All the things that make Glenwood Springs so attractive for living and working here are deteriorating without a sustainable workforce.”

Smith asid he’s fielding complaints from residents about the lack of maintenance along the city’s trails and parklands.

A waiting list is also over 70 names long for swimming lessons, Smith added.

The shortage of lifeguards has also prevented the recreation center from opening up the pool to full capacity.

City Manager Debra Figueroa said the department is clearly struggling the most out of any other city department.

“Because for better or for worse, when we were horribly terrified about how long the impacts of COVID would go on, we laid off all his part time staff. We didn’t do that to any other departments,” Figueroa said.

Mayor Jonathan Godes said it’s imperative that the city council ensure the parks and recreation department is maintained as it’s a highly valuable asset to all of Glenwood Springs.

“I think that if we don’t make that investment, then we might as well just sell off the parks and close up our parks and rec department. And that would be crazy because it’s the most beloved and utilized public-facing department that we have in the city,” Godes said.

“If you have a leaky roof whether you have the money to fix it or put it on a credit card you have to fix that roof.”

The staffing changes would be offset in 2021 and 2022, but Smith said he’d bring the budget strategies to fund the cost of adding four full-time employees to the council for consideration in 2022.

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or