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West Hartford to Open Two Outdoor Pools this Summer

Fernridge Park pool. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Pools at Beachland and Fernridge parks will open for the summer of 2020.

By Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford had planned to keep all of its outdoor pools closed throughout the summer of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Town Manager Matt Hart and Director of Leisure and Social Services Helen Rubino-Turco confirmed Tuesday that two of the four pools will open in July.

“We were thinking we wouldn’t be able to safely operate the pools,” Hart told We-Ha.com Tuesday, and when the town passed the FY2021 budget it anticipated that the pools would not be open.

Beachland Park and Fernridge Park pools should be ready to open the week of July 20, Rubino-Turco said, once some minor work is completed, the pools are filled, and staff is trained. She said there is a slight chance that one of the pools could be ready even sooner.

Those two pools were chosen because they are the most recently-renovated and provide a good geographical spread for residents.

“We said if we could we would come back,” Hart said, and town leaders believe that with the current status of the COVID-pandemic, and guidance from the state and the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, it will be possible to open several of the pools.

The cost to the town will be roughly $138,000, Hart said – $100,000 for labor and $38,000 for maintenance. There will not be any charge for residents to use the pools this summer.

Most of the staff that would have worked at the town’s outdoor pools as lifeguards have found other jobs, Hart said, but some that are available will be rehired and the remainder of the pool staff will come from HealthFitness, the company that runs Cornerstone Aquatics Center.

The town has determined that Cornerstone, which has been closed since March, is in need of a major capital project – resurfacing the tile floors in the locker rooms – that will require some downtime, and it will work out well to have their staff working at the outdoor pools. The overall project will take about six months to complete.

“Cornerstone needs to stay closed because of the project,” Rubino-Turco said. Removal of the old tile floors, jack-hammering the cement, and replacing of steel beams during the first phase of the project will be dusty and noisy, she said. In September, Cornerstone should be able to reopen when the project reaches its second phase, although the showers may not be ready for use right away.

The Beachland and Fernridge pools will be available for use by residents and Cornerstone members only, and there will not be a charge, Rubino-Turco said. Capacity will be at 50% maximum, and residents will be permitted to bring one out-of-town guest. The name and address of the guest must be provided, she said, in case it’s needed for contact tracing if any COVID-19 infections occur.

“We are being prepared,” Rubino-Turco said.

Reservations must be made in advance for pool time through HealthFitness, and sessions will be just under one hour for lap swims and just under two hours for general swim. Water fitness classes will be offered as well.

Pool hours will be 8 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 7 and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. after Aug.. 10. Weekend hours will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Sessions will be structured to accommodate cleaning time, Hart said.

Rubino-Turco said that those who use the pools should prepared to have their temperatures taken upon arrival if that is still deemed necessary. Masks will be required of staff and patrons, except while swimming.

Reservations should b e made in advance by calling 860-561-8271, and the phone line will be open Monday through Friday from 8-10 a.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. for weekend reservations. Walk-up reservations are discouraged and available only if there is space available.

We want to give this a shot,” Rubino-Turco said. The Cornerstone members have had a major disruption to their regular schedule.

The good thing about using professional Cornerstone staff, Hart said, is that the pools will be able to remain open through at least Labor Day. Pools typically close in mid- to late-August when high school and college age lifeguards need to return to school.

The town has been gradually reopening its recreational facilities, including splash pads and playgrounds, and last week Veterans Memorial Rink had a soft reopening.

“It went really well,” Rubino-Turco said, and beginning the week of July 6, the rink will be open from 8 a.m.-11 p.m., with a variety of programs and free skate in operation.

Veterans is “the coolest place to be this summer,” Rubino-Turco said.

The pool schedule and registration information will be available shortly.

Rubino-Turco said summer camp began Monday at Westmoor Park, is fully enrolled, and has gone well thus far. The framing of the outdoor classroom should take place this Thursday.

There is still some space available for camps that begin next week at the Elmwood Community Center, she said.

Facility closure/renovation questions can be addressed to Director of Leisure Services Helen Rubino-Turco at [email protected]. Cornerstone membership, program, and operational questions, should be directed to Cornerstone General Manager Michael Kerrigan at [email protected].

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