CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Summertime is in arm’s reach which means more sunshine, sand, and certainly splashes are right around the corner.
Many Central Illinois communities are doing last-minute touch-ups in preparation to open their outdoor community pools.
While many in the public may be thinking of fun in the sun, staff members at local park districts said certain steps have to be followed first to make sure swimming is safe.
Mason Carr, Aquatics Manager at the Pekin Park District, said with Memorial Day weekend approaching they’re still going over a few preps before the public comes to pack the pools.
“It’s an opportunity for everybody in the community to come out and have a really great time here,” Carr said. “Just having everyone be able to come out and enjoy this nice warm weather that we’re supposed to be having this weekend is something we really look forward to,” Carr said.
Carr said Pekin’s Dragonland Water Park opens up on Saturday so they’re going over last-minute clean ups and staff training. He said they’ve hired about 20 lifeguards this season and can always use more.
“We are down a little bit on our numbers but that’s a problem everywhere right now, it’s just hard to get lifeguards,” Carr said. “We’ve increased our pay and we’ve opened up our classes so we have multiple classes throughout the season but still for some reason it can be hard to get those lifeguards in.”
He also said there is a substantial focus on sanitation.
“The amount of cleaning that goes on in the facility just because of the mass amount of people that come through here every single day, we keep at a very high level,” Carr said. “I know sometimes public places like a public water park or a public pool can be seen as a little dirty, but the amount of time and effort that goes into making sure everything is clean [is priority].”
Across the river in Peoria, the pools are still getting filled up as they’re still about a week and a half away from opening.
“Our crews are ready to go,” Sue Wheeler, Peoria Park District’s Aquatics Supervisor, said. “They’ve come in and painted the bottoms of the pools, they’ve cleaned the bathhouses, they’ve got the decks ready to go.”
Wheeler said more sanitation efforts include regularly testing the pools’ chlorine and pH levels.
She said the only outdoor pools, under the Peoria Park District, that will be open this summer are the pools at the Proctor Recreation Center and the John H. Gwynn Jr. Family Aquatic Center.
Wheeler is also issuing a safety message to parents who are going to bring their kids to the pool.
“When the parents bring the little ones here, remember that if they haven’t been around a pool since last summer it doesn’t necessarily mean their swimming skills are up to where they were last summer,” Wheeler said. “Parents should be arms length away from their kids that are five and under at all times.”
She also highlighted the importance of parents controlling their kids at the pool.
“Some people believe that we as lifeguards are here to control everybody and once you walk in the facility the lifeguards are there so older siblings or parents don’t necessarily have to watch their children and that is absolutely false,” Wheeler said. “You are responsible for your children. We need you to know where your children are at. We need you to control what the behavior is and again we are here to respond to emergency situations.”
Wheeler said both pools should be open on June 5.
She said Proctor’s pool will be open on Monday- Friday from noon until 4pm and John Gwynn’s pool will be open on Monday-Thursday and Saturdays from 12:30pm-5:30pm.