Westerville will not open city pool, but Jaycee facility working on plan

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
Benson Leavitt, 7, of New Albany, navigates his way across the WIBIT inflatable obstacle course June 19, 2019, at the Highlands Park Aquatic Center in Westerville.

Westerville's Highlands Park Aquatic Center, 245 S. Spring Road, will not open because of the COVID-10 coronavirus pandemic – but city officials hope to be able to open the indoor pool at the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave., this summer.

Randy Auler, Westerville parks and recreation director, said closing the outdoor pool was a difficult decision, and staff members are evaluating ways the indoor pool could open in the future while keeping visitors safe.

"It came down to Franklin County Public Health and they strongly advised not to open the (outdoor) pool," he said. "We could only serve 18% of our users. That was going to create equity issues."

Auler said the outdoor pool capacity is 1,500 to 1,600 people, and there are usually between 6,000 to 8,000 pass- holders in the summer.

He said they would only have been able to serve 100 to 200 people because of safety provisions.

"It was going to be a challenge overall," he said. "The indoor pool is a different scenario. At the indoor pool you don't have the deck space."

Auler said a key difference is the indoor pool is a year-round pool environment.

"We can bring that online," he said. "We could service people over the long run. There's a lot of factors. We've come up with so many plans. But we aren't the experts with COVID. We want to provide a safe environment."

Auler said the city staff has participated in educational webinars, and officials have been looking at how the indoor pool could open safely.

"That's the path we're on," he said. "With indoor, we're looking at how we can (open), if possible, hopefully sometime in July."

Auler said the city is working closely with Franklin County Public Health.

"A lot depends on how the disease is progressing or regressing," he said. "It's a major concern."

Auler said the department sells preseason passes.

"We've been in contact with those passholders," he said. "They can carry a credit for next year or get a refund."

David Collinsworth, Westerville's city manager, said Westerville Parks & Recreation has been planning its schedule for many weeks, carefully considering the implications on safe management and maintenance as well as budgets of various programs and activities.

"In the final analysis, the health, safety and welfare of the public and our staff was the preeminent concern," he said.

City facilities that will remain closed until further notice are Everal Barn, playgrounds, basketball courts, the Thomas Knox Hockey Rink, the Hanby Park splash pad, the senior center, park shelters, water fountains and sports fields for contact sports.

Other cancellations for summer programs include day camps, adult softball, swim lessons, the Sounds of Summer Concert Series and the Lunch Box Music Series.

Facilities that reopened May 26 include outdoor tennis and pickleball courts, the skate park and the dog park.

The Westerville Community Center is scheduled to reopen June 15 with limitations.

Modifications for the community center opening include:

* Temperature checks for all visitors and staff entering the facility.

* Face coverings must be worn by visitors and staff.

* Social distancing will be enforced.

* Facility capacity will be 50% of occupancy.

* No locker storage will be provided; patrons will be required to keep their belongings with them at all times.

* Fitness areas will be frequently disinfected by users, and that will be enforced.

* No games will be allowed in the gymnasium for social-distancing compliance. No shared equipment will be allowed.

* Single-file use only of the track for walking and jogging.

Future announcements and schedules will be posted on the city's website, westerville.org.

The Westerville Jaycee Community Swimming Pool, 230 S. Otterbein Ave., is working on an opening plan to submit to the Ohio Department of Health, according to westervillejayceepool.com.

The pool, owned by the Westerville Junior Chamber of Commerce Foundation, hopes to implement three phases in its opening plan.

Updates will be posted on its website.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla