We had hoped to open Miller Park Pool as well as the spray ground at Riverside Park and fountain at Riverfront Park on July 1, 2020. About two weeks ago, our Aquatic Facility Operators attended a CDC webcast pertaining to how to open your pools safely during the COVID 19 pandemic. After listening to the protocols and best practices, our staff felt we could operate with the mandated reduced bather load and enforce social distancing along with other best practices. Our Director proposed this opening to the City Manager under the CDC protocols. The CDC confirmed what we already knew, that COVID 19 is killed on contact with properly-chlorinated water.
We are highly concerned about what is going to happen to Lynchburg children this summer. Research shows that for every dollar spent on out-of-school time programs like summer camps, open gyms, after-schools programs six dollars are saved in crime, court and detention costs. With basketball hoops covered, summer camps closed and now the aquatic facilities closed we are very concerned about the lack of positive places and programs for Lynchburg’s children.
Yesterday we received more-specific information about Virginia pools openings as The Virginia Department of Health hosted a webinar on how to open pools safely in Virginia. This information was more relevant than the CDC webinar a few weeks ago. VDH stated that during phase 1 only one person would be allowed in each lane of the pool. Phase 2 would severely limit our bather load based on the Governor’s guidelines to maybe fewer than 50, depending on the phase. Pool staff would have to enforce social distancing in the pool, on the deck and in the grass. Taking pool patron temperatures would be a requirement to entering the facility (CDC recommendation).
The cost to operate the pool is about $1,500 per day. Revenue generated on an average day at the pool is about $600 based on about 200 people. So imagine the reduction in revenue with only one person per swim lane and swim classes limited to only 10. Even in phase 2 the allowed bather load would be about only 25% the normal attendance.
The City Manager weighed numerous perspectives and decided an abundance of caution was needed, as she felt enforcing social distancing between children at the three aquatic facilities was not realistic or feasible.
If any of the Governor’s restrictions are relaxed this summer, it is still plausible to revisit the decision regarding the spray ground and fountain. It takes six weeks to open the pool. Much of that includes hiring and training staff. If we can’t hire staff now, we couldn’t open by July 1. It will take aquatics staff only a few days to get either Riverfront fountain or Riverside spray ground operational. Both facilities would have to be fenced (temporarily) to control numbers and we would need park monitors to enforce social distancing. Both facilities cost significantly less to operate.
The City’s trails, parks, restrooms, skate park, and playgrounds remain open. Many of our recreation programs will begin on July 1. There will be no typical summer camps at the neighborhood centers, however limited staff will provide lunch and take–home–play activities from the NC parking lots. Special Events are cancelled until July 1. Be on the lookout for our abbreviated program guide in your mailboxes at the end of May– the cover is purple and features the Lynchburg Community Market.
Despite the circumstances, LPRD is still helping you to FIND YOUR FUN.