Seymour and Brownstown are gearing up to open their public pools in less than three weeks.
But operations won’t be business as usual, at least not yet. Local parks departments are implementing new rules to keep swimmers and staff safe in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shields Park Pool in Seymour will open at noon May 30, followed by Brownstown Pool at noon June 1.
“We have done our homework and will make the transition as safe as possible,” said Stacy Findley, director of Seymour Parks and Recreation.
According to the health department, pools will be allowed to have 50% of their capacity, which for Seymour is 450 people, but Findley said she doesn’t feel comfortable letting that many people in yet.
“We are going to say 250, and we would still be well within those guidelines,” she said. “I think people are going to be so excited to actually get out of their homes and get out to get fresh air that I think they will be reasonable.”
Dave Boggs, who manages Shields Park Pool with his wife, Chris, said all front office and concession stand workers will be required to wear gloves and face masks while at work.
The department also is planning to install plastic sneeze guards in both areas to further protect staff and is investing in hand sanitizer dispensers for key areas and portable sanitizing sprayers.
“We may have an extra person throughout the day to help keep spraying stuff down,” Boggs said.
Chairs on the pool deck will be spaced 10 to 12 feet apart, and swimmers will be reminded to observe social distancing, he added.
“We’ll make announcements like every 20 minutes over the (public address) system to please do your part and socially distance,” Boggs said.
One of the biggest groups of swimmers during the summer comes from the Boys and Girls Club. Findley said she plans to work with club and pool staff to continue that partnership.
“Part of my biggest concern is making sure we have high enough capacity to accommodate those larger groups, like the Boys and Girls Club,” Findley said. “They really rely on our pool every summer.”
Parks board President Gary Colglazier asked if pool staff should be taking everyone’s temperature before allowing them in to swim.
“I’m being better safe than sorry,” he said. “I don’t want to see somebody get the disease from the pool and then hold us liable. I’m just trying to keep us out of trouble.”
Boggs said it would be hard for someone to prove where they contracted the virus. He also said he has heard heat, humidity and chlorine are supposed to kill the coronavirus.
Findley said she would check with the city’s attorney to see if taking temperatures is a step the parks department can legally take, but she feels people are going to be safer at the pool than going to the supermarket.
She also would rather see people swim at the pool where there are trained lifeguards than go to a river.
Opening parks facilities back up, including the pool, is a way to help promote the well-being of the community, she added.
“We will make accommodations and be flexible so folks can feel a sense of normalcy,” she said. “More than anything, the small steps we are taking will make a large difference in the eyes of an individual or a child who may be struggling.”
After several meetings to sort through the issues COVID-19 has created, the Brownstown Park Board voted 3-0 on Monday night during a meeting at the park shelter house to reopen the pool.
Pool Manager Jamie Temple said she expects a lot of issues during the first couple of weeks as staff and swimmers adjust to the restrictions created by novel coronavirus, including social distancing and the need for everyone to wear face masks on the pool deck.
Spacing swimmers out when they are on the deck will require some effort, she said, but most aren’t on the deck at the same time.
Capacity will be limited to 100 people under the state’s reopening guidelines. Hours of operation will be noon to 5 p.m. daily.
Temple told the board a check of attendance the past three years shows attendance averages around 90 people a day. Capacity will increase to 150, or 50%, on June 14.
After Monday’s meeting, Temple said her plans were to begin filling the pool with water Tuesday. It will take three days to fill, she said.
Once full, two tests of the water will be needed, and if the water passes both, Larry Miller, an environmental health specialist with the Jackson County Health Department, will be called for a final inspection, she said. Whitney Kovener, an environmental health specialist with the health department, also will inspect the concession stand.
Lap swimming will be available from 6 to 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, but swim lessons will not be available until July 4, at which time there will be no capacity restrictions.
All children under the age of 10 must be accompanied by an adult to ensure proper social distancing guidelines are followed. Patrons also are encouraged to bring their own chairs.
Pool parties will be available for groups of 75 or less, and people can call the town hall at 812-358-5500 to reserve a spot.
In a related matter, the board voted to reopen the rest of the Brownstown Park on May 24. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, outdoor shelter houses, softball and baseball fields will be open for public use with social distancing guidelines still in place.
No organized practices, however, can be held on the ball fields until June 14.
The park’s indoor shelter house also can be rented to groups of less than 25 until June 14. Groups larger than 25 will be allowed after June 14. To make a reservation, call the town hall.