Pickerington's community pool bucks central Ohio trend, plans June 15 opening

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
Pickerington Community Pool, 11330 Stonecreek Drive South

Several play features will be removed and swimmers will be limited to three-hour stays, but the Pickerington Community Pool will open this season.

Pending Mother Nature's cooperation, the Pickerington Parks and Recreation Department will open the city's public pool at 11 a.m. Monday, June 15.

The start of this year's season was pushed back from the traditional opening on Memorial Day weekend due to concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Among the most notable changes this year is the elimination of season passes, in part due to the pool's late opening, but also because of time restrictions for guests.

The time limits will allow staff members to cap admission during a given time to 125 people as they try to facilitate social distancing.

"With proper distancing -- i.e. 6-foot spacing -- the dimensions of the pool allow 125 people in the pool at one time," City Manager Greg Butcher said. "We took the dimensions of the pool and deck into consideration and used state guidance and professional discretion."

Day passes for three-hour time slots will be available for purchase via cityofpickerington.activityreg.com beginning at 7 a.m. each day.

Guests will be able to purchase swim time from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Each time slot will cost $6 for residents and $8 for others, and multiple time slots may be purchased daily.

Children ages 3 and younger will be admitted for free, but online registration is required.

During the 30 minutes between each swim period, pool facilities will be sanitized.

"Our approach in Pickerington has been that we aren't making hasty decisions," Mayor Lee Gray said. "We want to be thoughtful in our decision-making and want to find solutions to deliver this service to our community, while still following the governor's recommendations.

"Even though our city staff has spent a lot of time and effort on this, we feel like opening the pool will be worth it and will provide a little bit of normalcy this summer. We're taking all the necessary precautions, but if someone is still uncomfortable, then they can choose not to go."

In addition to the admissions changes, pool basketball hoops, lounge chairs and picnic tables will be removed to help maintain social distancing.

Guests will be permitted to bring their own chairs.

The pool's splash pad, slide and diving boards will be closed, and no concessions will be provided. As in the past, guests may bring their own food and drinks, but glass containers are prohibited.

Additionally, no swimming lessons will be offered this year.

"First, the state's guidance suggested that those teaching the lessons would have to do from the swim deck with a parent or guardian in the water with the child," Butcher said. "We viewed this as impractical.

"Second, by eliminating the lessons activity, it affords us more flexibility with cleaning and scheduling."

City officials said they recognize the changes will be significant, but they'll help Pickerington salvage its pool season.

By contrast, communities such as Gahanna, Grandview Heights and Hilliard will keep their public pools closed for 2020.

"After reviewing all of the health guidance, evaluating risk and taking those into consideration with the city's mission, we felt (opening the pool) was the appropriate decision for the city of Pickerington," Butcher said. "This philosophy aligns with other decisions we have made and will continue to make during this pandemic.

"With the support of Mayor Gray and (Pickerington City) Council, there has been a profound focus on what works best for the city of Pickerington, its residents and businesses."

Before Ohio implementing several guidelines in response to the pandemic, 182 season pool passes had been sold, said Becca Medinger, the parks and recreation director.

Those patrons have been reimbursed.

Medinger said she doesn't anticipate hiring more staff than usual to serve as lifeguards and to enforce social distancing, but "duties will change for some of the staff to include additional cleaning, monitoring social distancing and communicating new guidelines to the pool guests."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate