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Outdoor pool opens for the summer

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The outdoor pool at Tillsonburg’s Lake Lisgar Water Park is now open for one-hour all-age swims.

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“We’re excited about opening and have been working hard to ensure that all the necessary COVID-19 prevention protocols will be in place,” said Julie Dawley, Town of Tillsonburg aquatics supervisor, and current president of the Lifesaving Society of Ontario, in a media release leading up to the weekend opening.

Swims will be limited to one hour in length – with cleaning between each swim. Guests are asked to book their time and day in advance online (www.tillsonburg.ca/waterpark) or call 519-688-9011. Admission is $3, with no charge for children under age six.

“We’re now accepting reservations for swim times,” said Dawley. “Each Wednesday, we’ll open booking for the upcoming weekend and the following week.”

Guests who arrive at the pool without a booking will only be admitted if space is available, and they pass the COVID-19 screening.

“To ensure physical distancing can be maintained, only 75 guests will be allowed in the pool each hour for the all ages swim,” said Dawley. “And swimmers must keep a two metre (six feet) distance from anyone not in their group. The usual banding program and supervision requirements for young swimmers will also be in place. At the end of each hour, all guests will leave the pool so that cleaning can take place before the next group is admitted.”

Guests are asked to arrive at the park wearing their bathing suits as change rooms will not be in service.

Due to provincial guidelines, the slide is not available. Be sure to bring your own snacks and drinks (no glass containers or alcohol) as the snack bar will not be operational.

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All guests will be required to wash their hands prior to entry and exit, and they will be screened for any COVID-like symptoms.

“Going to the pool will definitely feel different this summer,” said Dawley, who has been on the Tillsonburg aquatics staff for more than 30 years. “But we’re making the best of it and doing what we can to give as many people as possible a safe swimming experience.”

“I’m pleased that the people of Tillsonburg will be able to enjoy some outdoor recreation this summer, and want to thank residents for their patience these last few weeks as staff worked tirelessly to ready the pool for use,” said Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar. “The summer of 2020 will definitely be one for the history books, but we’ll continue to rise to the challenge as best we can.”

A summary of all available programs is provided below. For full details, visit www.lakelisgarwaterpark.ca.

All-age swims are available daily from 12-1 p.m., 1:30-2:30, 3-4, and 4:30-5:30. The pool capacity is 75.

Adult swims, with a pool capacity of 50, are available daily from 9-10 a.m.

Aquafit sessions are Monday-Friday, 10:30-11:30 a.m. with a pool capacity of 20.

Preschool playtime, with a capacity of 30, is available Saturdays and Sundays, 10:30-11:30 a.m. for children ages 5-and-under and their caregivers.

A dozen people participated in Tillsonburg’s first outdoor aquafit class Monday morning at the Lake Lisgar Water Park pool. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News)
A dozen people participated in Tillsonburg’s first outdoor aquafit class Monday morning at the Lake Lisgar Water Park pool. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN

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“Glad to be back in the water,” Dawley smiled after leading Monday’s aquafit class. “Really excited by this. I am so grateful, I love all of these ladies.”

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Everyone successfully maintained their distance, she noted.

The participants shared her enthusiasm, enjoying their first aquafit session since the indoor Kinsmen pool temporarily closed in March.

“So thrilled,” said Dawley. “I had been getting messages… ‘when, when, when…’ so we’re all really excited. I shared what they were going through, I didn’t have a pool.”

Dawley, who literally grew up in and around pools, joked to friends that ‘her gills were drying up.’ She even made the decision to purchase a home pool, which should be ready next spring-summer.

“I could not go that long without water again – and I don’t want to.”

Dawley is also excited to see families have a chance to safely swim together at the pool.

“To me, it’s way better than the lake. You’ve got chlorine in the water, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) says if you’re in the water, that is probably one of the safest places to be because of the chlorine.”

The staff, which has had to adjust to operational changes, has been diligently cleaning between swims, she said.

“There are set out guidelines from the Board of Health, of course, but we are exceeding those because we want to.

“The nice thing about this pool is that families, in units, can come here and play together. There’s lots of space, so it’s pretty easy to maintain your distance.”

Participants in Monday’s aquafit class enjoyed a one-hour outdoor session at the Lake Lisgar Water Park pool. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News)
Participants in Monday’s aquafit class enjoyed a one-hour outdoor session at the Lake Lisgar Water Park pool. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN

Some of the ‘splash’ water features are still operational during the all-age swims.

“Here, you’ve got major safety because of the chlorinated water. Once something’s been in the water for 10 minutes, it’s considered sanitized. So that’s how we are cleaning the lifejackets, we’re putting them in the water between swims because we don’t want to spray chemicals on the material.”

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People are also encouraged to bring their own flotation gear/toys, as long as they don’t interfere with other swimmers. The traditional large inflatables will not be used this summer.

“Really, if you don’t have to share something, that’s probably best.”

Opening day on Saturday, July 11 had to be cancelled due to inclement weather, but they were back in business Sunday with 79 people, spread over six one-hour swims, on a cloudy day.

“I was pretty pleased with that. I think it’s going to be a pretty slow start because I think people want to see how things are going to run, and get a feel for it. I’ve had lots of phone calls and interest, and I think once we get a couple more weeks into it, I think we’ll see more people.”

In a shorter than usual season, there are only seven more weeks left – the pool will close for the season on the Labour Day weekend. The installation of the water slide will begin in the fall to be ready for 2021.

“It’s important that they get their swims in,” said Dawley.

Lifeguards at the outdoor pool in Tillsonburg will be wearing face shields this summer. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News)
Lifeguards at the outdoor pool in Tillsonburg will be wearing face shields this summer. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN

In a normal season the pool has a capacity for 650, so limiting it to 75 people at one time is a significant reduction. It means the pool will not generate the same revenue. Town Council was aware of the extra costs involved with the COVID guidelines and decided to go ahead with opening the pool this summer – unlike some municipalities in the area.

“Our Council and Town are very much behind it, they want to ensure there is stuff to do for people in town.”

Seventy-five people is conservative for the size of the pool, said Dawley, noting the guidelines allow for more.

“That’s due to our cautiousness. That’s why we are doing one-hour swims, to try to get as many people in as we can in one day, to accommodate everyone. Some pools are making reservations for one day, but can you imagine only letting 75 people in for a whole day? That’s not fair.

“Most people are in to have a swim and get cooled off and just enjoy being in the water. And in a place you know is only 75 people – and safe.”

cabbott@postmedia.com

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