By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport City Council decided not to open the city’s outdoor Aquatic Center swimming pool this season.
In a press release dated May 27, city officials said, “This decision was made after significant discussion and consideration of the required safety precautions for opening pools occurred. It was ultimately decided, for public safety, health and welfare of our patrons and staff, the most responsible decision was to not open the pool this year.”
The city is following the advice of Joe Mazzola of the Franklin County Health Commissioner, who stated in a letter to public pool perators on May 20, “To reduce the risk of transmission (of the coronavirus) in our health jurisdiction, though permissible by the state, Franklin County Public Health is strongly advising licensed pools not to open this year.”
City officials acknowledged that the pool’s closure this year “will be disappointing for many,” but that the city plans to re-open the outdoor pool in 2021.
Governor Mike DeWine announced that, beginning May 26, public swimming pools and club pools regulated by local (county) health departments could re-open if the facilities met required safety protocols in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
However, according to Groveport City Administrator B.J. King, the safety rules outlined by the state, “Present a tremendous challenge to us for opening the outdoor Groveport Aquatic Center, particularly in regards to the six foot social distancing standard.”
“So the state is saying, we can open the Groveport Aquatic Center, but then we can’t open it,” observed Groveport City Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert.
A full list of mandatory and recommended best practices rules for pools are available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.
King said the state’s rules indicate there must be physical and visual social distancing barriers in the pool and on the pool deck.
“I don’t know how we do that,” said King. “It limits the size and amount of the outdoor pool we can use, especially in the deep end. It would be like a human aquarium. It would not offer a good experience for patrons. People will get upset. We would need a police presence at the pool.”
According to Groveport Recreation Director Kyle Lund, the outdoor Groveport Aquatic Center has a normal maximum occupancy of 800 to 1,000 people. Under the state and county safety rules, the occupancy level would drop to 160.
“We’re going through a scary health time,” said Hilbert.
Councilman Ed Dildine observed, “I wish the state would have made it easier to open so we could give people a little bit of hope.”
Recreation Center opens May 28
The Groveport Recreation Center opened May 28 with a reduced occupancy limit of 160. Social distancing requirements are in place.
The new COVID-19 (coronavirus) hours are Monday – Friday, 5:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. The Phase 1 re-opening will be available for members only and will have a number of modifications and restrictions, which can be found at www.groveportrec.com.
“The indoor pool in the recreation center is more manageable with occupancy limits and social distancing requirements. You could limit it to one person per lane for lap swimming,” said Lund. “The outdoor pool is more entertainment oriented, it’s considered a special pool, it’s more like a water park. The indoor pool is more fitness oriented. Each pool has a different clientele.”
Lund said exercise equipment in the recreation center will be spaced out for social distancing, the climbing wall and locker rooms will be closed, and sanitizing efforts will be ongoing.