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Pools reopen, but many programs canceled or modified

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 23, 2020


GROSSE POINTES — Just in time for what is traditionally the steamiest portion of a Michigan summer, municipal pools are beginning to reopen in the Grosse Pointes. However, like almost everything else in the COVID-19 era, this won’t be a typical summer for recreation.

Grosse Pointe Farms
Over the July 4 holiday weekend, families have usually enjoyed a long list of activities — including a decorated bike parade, pie-eating contest, concert and fireworks — as part of the Grosse Pointe Farms Regatta and Family Fun Day. This year would have marked the 69th annual regatta. However, because this event has drawn such huge crowds, it has had to be canceled this year, City Manager Shane Reeside said.

The pool, though, will be open. At press time, Reeside said they were planning on opening the pool July 1. The Pier Park concessions stand is slated to open July 1, as well, he said.

“The biggest change at Pier Park is our guest policy,” Reeside said. “Due to the governor’s executive order and occupancy (limits), the guest policy has been modified to allow only one guest per day per park pass holder.”

The old policy had enabled residents to bring up to two guests per day without using any of the additional guest pass punches on their card, Reeside said. Each park pass holder formerly had 10 punches that could be used during the season.

“But (the new guest policy) still allows a grandparent to bring a grandchild (to the park),” Reeside pointed out. “We don’t want to overwhelm any of the facilities this year.”

The Pier Park community building has reopened, but the city isn’t taking reservations for building rentals at this time. Reeside said outdoor tennis lessons and some other programs will be offered, but swim lessons, synchronized swimming and the swim team are among those that have had to be canceled.

Reeside said some residents have asked if they would be seeing a tax break or decrease, because the pool is opening a month later than usual. While he said there “have been some personnel savings” because of the delay, “on the revenue side, it’s likely (to) more than offset any savings we’ve had.” That’s because building rentals, program fees and the like all contribute to the overall parks and recreation budget and offset park costs, Reeside said. In addition, other sources of funding are expected to be lower for both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years, he said.

“We’re anticipating we may see up to a 25% reduction in state-shared revenues (in the coming fiscal year),” Reeside said.

The fireworks could be rescheduled later — perhaps in the fall — but Reeside said nothing has been scheduled or finalized yet.

Grosse Pointe Shores
During a June 16 Grosse Pointe Shores City Council meeting at Osius Park, new Pool Director Jennifer Serra — who took over after Kay Drake retired at the end of last season — said “preparations are underway” to open the pool June 26. Because of capacity limits and social distancing requirements, she said the pool would only be open to residents this year; hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. There will also be early morning hours for lap swimmers only.

“It really is a different season than we’ve ever had,” said Serra, who’s also a Shores resident.

The goal, said Serra, is to “meet the needs of the community while keeping everyone in the community, including staff, as safe as possible.”

She said they plan on starting with a maximum of 100 people on the pool deck and in the pool at any given time. Serra said she doesn’t believe capacity will be an issue, but, “once we open, we will be able to get a better handle on it.”

Deck chairs will be clustered in different numerical configurations, and families will be directed to a cluster of chairs that suits the number of people in their group, Serra explained.

City Councilman Matthew Seely, the chair of the Park Committee, said Serra and her team have a protocol for sanitizing deck chairs, locker rooms and the like.

“They’ve got an incredibly comprehensive plan,” Seely said.

At press time, Serra said it still wasn’t clear whether they’d be able to open up the locker room showers for swimmers, but restrooms would be open. However, water aerobics, tennis and swim lessons, the swim team, and other programs won’t be offered.

“All of our programs for this summer have unfortunately been canceled,” Serra said.

That includes a July 4 concert that had been timed to coincide with a fireworks display at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. The concert alone drew about 2,000 people last year, but Seely said they would only be allowed to admit 250 this year into the park to see it because of restrictions on public gatherings and social distancing requirements. The GPYC has also canceled its fireworks.

“It would be poor judgment on our part to go ahead (with the concert)” under these circumstances, Seely said.

Seely said sponsor contributions for the concert and fireworks would be refunded.

Grosse Pointe City
In Grosse Pointe City, the pool at Neff Park was tentatively scheduled to reopen at the beginning of July. Parks and Recreation Director Christopher Hardenbrook said last week that the pool was “scheduled for cleaning Wednesday (June 17).” It takes roughly two weeks after cleaning for chemical balancing and heating, and then the pool must pass inspection before reopening.

Because the locker rooms won’t be available for changing, City residents are asked to come to the park ready to swim and to bring their own chairs, kickboards and goggles. Outdoor showers on the pool deck will be available for swimmers, City officials said.

With state limits still in place on large gatherings, Hardenbrook said City residents are being asked to schedule their visits to the pool by appointment so that the City can stagger groups of pool users and not exceed maximum capacity at any given time.

Grosse Pointe Park
At press time, Grosse Pointe Park hoped to open its pool July 1, but the splash pad and all buildings at the city’s parks remained closed. Picnic permits were being accepted at press time, and pickleball, volleyball and tennis courts were open for use, as were play structures at both parks.

Park City Manager Nick Sizeland said Parks and Recreation Supervisor Chad Craig has been talking to his colleagues in recreation, and many are doing virtual programs. Still, summer is short, and most Michiganders want to enjoy time outdoors while they can.

“We’ve all had a little bit of cabin fever due to COVID-19,” Sizeland said.

For complete details and the latest information, residents are asked to visit their respective city’s website or call their parks and recreation department.