Westerville's Highlands Park Aquatic Center to reopen Memorial Day weekend

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Steve Clay with the city of Westerville paints the base of the diving boards April 26 as part of maintenance being done at Highlands Park Aquatic Center in preparation for the center's reopening May 29. The facility was closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Westerville residents can look forward to fun in the sun with the reopening of Highlands Park Aquatic Center, 245 S Spring Road, beginning Memorial Day weekend.

“The excitement we're hearing about the pool opening is another signal that we're inching our way back to the traditions loved by this community,” said Christa Dickey, Westerville community-affairs director. “Plus we have the missed 10-year anniversary to celebrate this year. The experience overall will be modified for visitor safety, but people have been accommodating and understanding as both facilities and programs come back.”

Highlands Park remained closed for the 2020 pool season as a result of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

David Chambers, special-projects administrator for Westerville Parks & Recreation, said the plan is to open the pool May 29, with season passes currently available for purchase at the Westerville Community Center.  

Designed with a natural, organic-feeling environment for relaxing fun in the sun, the aquatics center features a speed and body-slide tower, a zero-entry toddler pool with a simulated-rock slide, a spray playground, a lazy river and an eight-lane, 25-meter pool with a diving well, according to the city’s website about the pool.  

Phil Burkett, Westerville maintenance manager, patches holes in the concrete around Highlands Park Aquatic Center on April 26.

Although Gov. Mike DeWine announced relief from some COVID-19 health orders, Chambers said, some orders still in place likely will cause the pool operations to look a little different this year compared with previous years.  

The plan as of April 28 is that everyone entering the facility would be required to wear a mask and adhere to the social-distancing guidelines, he said.

"Due to these guidelines, we will be reducing our overall capacity of the facility," Chambers said.

He said city leaders are expected to meet with Franklin County Public Health officials to review operational plans for this summer to ensure compliance with all guidelines.  

"Nothing is set in stone until our review with Franklin County Public Health," Chambers said. “Once that plan is approved we will update the city's website and reach out to all our current season pass holders so they are all aware of our plan and what they can expect when they arrive.”    

He said a plan is ready to open the season with designated time slots and a plan to open without time slots.

Chambers said each plan would have its pros and cons. Timeslots, for example, would help ensure people know they have a spot before they arrive, but they would limit the amount of time they could enjoy the facility.  

“If timeslots are enacted, there would be priority registration for our season pass holders to obtain their spot before they open up to those wishing to pay a daily admission,” he said.

Chambers said another change will be the absence of seating.  

“We will ask that our guests bring their own chairs or blankets to help reduce the amount of shared equipment by guests and to maximize the deck and grass space to ensure families can safely social distance themselves,” he said. “The concession stand will open but will be limited to prepackaged food and drinks.”

Chambers said city leaders are excited to open Highlands Park again after a missed season in 2020, and season pass holders and guests are asked to do their part to help keep a safe environment for everyone.  

“Together we can still enjoy a great pool season in hopes that the 2022 season will see many, if not all, restrictions removed,” he said.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla