Upper Arlington officials plan to reopen two of the city’s three swimming pools June 8 but would do so with restrictions in place.
Pending approval from Franklin County Public Health, which as of May 19 hadn’t authorized the opening of public swimming pools due to concerns related to COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Upper Arlington officials would open Tremont Pool and Devon Pool.
In addition, pools only will be available only to Upper Arlington residents at a rate of $7 per person for 90 minutes of pool time reserved in advance.
Reservations would be limited to 100 per time slot, helping to enforce social-distancing guidelines.
“This year’s pool season is not going to be the same as in the past,” City Manager Steve Schoeny said May 18 during a virtual conference session of the Upper Arlington City Council. “The pool experience is not going to be the same as in the past.
“Just because you have entered the gates in the pool does not mean that social-distancing guidelines don’t still apply.
“They do. In fact, if anything, they’re more important.”
Schoeny went on to say residents need to understand new rules the city plans to implement must be followed “to make sure that we keep everyone safe” and to ensure “everyone has the best experience that they can.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. John Hustead announced May 14 that public pools throughout the state could reopen May 26 in accordance with a series of guidelines like those Upper Arlington seeks to implement.
Additionally, the city must receive approval from Franklin County Public Health.
“Franklin County (Public Health) licenses and inspects public pools in the county,” said Emma Speight, Upper Arlington communications director. “So, they have a role in this, too.”
Parks and recreation director Debbie McLaughlin said the proposed June 8 opening date gives her department time to prepare facilities and train employees about the new protocols.
In addition to reservations and the cap on the number of swimmers, other regulations include:
*Patrons will be required to wear face masks while entering and exiting the pool grounds, but not while swimming or in the beach-towel areas with their families or small groups
*Disinfecting “contact-point” surfaces for 30 minutes between each 90-minute session
*Removal of pool furniture, such as deck chairs and tables
*Restriction of access to locker amenities
*The lily pad and climbing wall features at Tremont Pool will be closed
“We do not want people to show up at the pool and not know if there’s available admission,” McLaughlin said. “We also do not want to exchange currency.
“(Reservations) would be available seven days in advance so you can plan out the next few days.”
McLaughlin said the city chose to open Tremont and Devon pools, but not the Reed Road Water Park, because Tremont has two disinfectant systems and Devon has a larger area of pool water, as well as separate toddler and diving pools that enable visitors to easily spread out.
“(Reed Road Water Park) is simply problematic,” she said. “It has a large play feature in the middle of the zero-depth area that would not be able to be used.”.
McLaughlin said officials still are working on details, but the city would seek to provide swimming lessons, water walking, lap swimming and aqua aerobics programs at Tremont and Devon before 11 a.m.
They’re also hoping to provide a time block for older patrons to have open swimming.
Those scheduled to take swim lessons at Reed Road Water Park will be relocated to one of the other pools.
McLaughlin said lifeguards will remain focused on swim safety, and “deck monitors” will ensure distance between swimmers.
“Our goal is to allow the 90 minutes of swim time,” McLaughlin said. “We will stop the swim time at the end of a (time) block.
“People will need to gather their items and exit quickly at the same time as we’re starting to clean the facility.”
Separate pool entrances and exits will be maintained, McLaughlin said.
After hearing the plans, some council members expressed concerns about the costs for admission and trying to provide access to families in need of financial assistance.
McLaughlin said before the pandemic, the prices for day passes at Tremont Pool and Reed Road Water Park were set at $12, and a day pass at Devon was $7.
Additionally, she said all 59 individual and family passes that had been sold for 2020 have been refunded.
Councilmen John Kulewicz and Jim Lynch said opening the pools would provide recreation and fitness options.
“I know most members of this council were encouraging staff that if there’s a way we can open pools – even if we have to (financially) subsidize it,” Lynch said. “It’s something our residents need after a hard year. We all empathize with the challenges our families have had.”
Schoeny said although the pools will open only for residents, the restriction could be eased if demand is less than expected and capacity permits. Doing so also would allow the city to capitalize on needed revenue opportunities, he said.
In response to the concerns of Brendan King, council vice president, that the restrictions could lead to a “boring” pool experience, Schoeny said the pandemic requires the city to take preventative measures and ask for patience and understanding from residents.
“It’s really going to have to take on the feel, quite frankly, of the way our parks have felt the last two months – and that’s not a bad thing,” Schoeny said. “Our parks have been a great place for our families to come together and see each other.”