The public Parkwood Park swimming pool and three public spray parks in Wyandotte County will be closed this summer.
Emerick Cross, Unified Government assistant county administrator, said at the Thursday, May 14, Unified Government Commission meeting that after consulting with the Wyandotte County chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Greiner, it was decided to close the pool and spray parks for this season.
Cross noted that some other pools and spray parks in the metropolitan area also have been closed. Bonner Springs has closed its aquatic center, he said. The Turner Aquatics Center is closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, also.
A recreational subcommittee met and created guidelines for sports and recreation, Cross said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility of a second wave of the virus, he said local officials felt that social distancing would be too difficult at swimming pools, as kids often play water tag and other games that result in a lot of contact with each other.
Two UG commissioners, a representative of the Parks and Recreation Department and Cross met to discuss the issues last Friday, he said.
“I wanted the community to know that this decision was not taken in a vacuum, and that our paramount concern always, every summer, and continues to be the safety of the kids, families and staff,” Commissioner Gayle Townsend said at the May 14 UG meeting. She was one of the commissioners meeting with the group.
She said she looked forward every summer to going to the Parkwood pool, and she often saw a lot of contact among kids. She didn’t believe there was any way they could enforce social distancing or ask the lifeguards to do that.
“With this approach, not one person is going to become ill from this dreadful virus because we elected to open the pool,” Commissioner Townsend said. “I know this is a hardship for a lot of people. We are going to come through this safely.”
Cross said that the UG was trying to get lifeguards to apply for open positions before COVID-19 hit, but no applications had been turned in to that point. It takes four to six weeks to train lifeguards to rescue children, he said, and they usually meet with the Kansas City, Kansas, school district to use their pools to train lifeguards. The schools were closed, and there was nowhere for the lifeguards to train, he added.
Commissioner Townsend said for the past few years, they have been trying to increase the number of kids who become lifeguards. They need about 10 to 14 lifeguards a year, she said.
Timing is also a factor, she said. Last year, she said, the school district opened its fall semester Aug 8, and many of the lifeguards had to go back to school. A lack of lifeguards is a nonstarter for safety reasons, she said.
Comm. Townsend said she would continue to advocate for a pipeline for local lifeguards and providing training for local kids. She said they are looking at this positively going forward, “to increase the number of lifeguards and to outlast this dreadful virus.”