Washington, D.C., has plenty to brag about as a great place to live and even to raise kids. One reason is the number of public swimming pools around the city.
According to the Department of Parks and Recreation, “D.C. is ranked in the top five of cities nationwide when it comes to pool access per 100,000 residents. This means that no matter which ward you call home, DPR has a pool for you and your family, just minutes away from your front door.”
The pools are free to all (with minimum proof of residency) and clean, with beautiful water and generally friendly lifeguards. The Georgetown area has three outdoor pools: the pools at Volta Park and the Jelleff Recreation Center and the Francis Pool on N Street in the West End. “Whether you’re interested in swim lessons or just a way to cool off on a hot summer day, DPR has got you covered,” boasts the department.
But that wasn’t the case as the muggy days of mid-August began. As residents headed for the pools on their pre-Labor Day staycations, they found them … closed. The sparkling clear water, lane dividers, lifeguard stands and lounge chairs were (and are still) all set up. But there was no one around. The gates were locked. They were done for the season.
The D.C. pools began to shut down on Aug. 2. By Aug. 20, all were closed.
In The Georgetowner’s opinion, the early closure of the District’s public outdoor swimming pools, generously funded with tax dollars, is all wet — a dereliction of duty. The schedules seem to be dominated by some ancient bureaucratic belief that the pools are for kids only. They open when schools close for summer vacation and shut down as soon as the yellow buses start to roll.
In part, this is because the pools are largely staffed with 18-to-23-year-old residents who qualified for D.C.’s Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, which ran from June 25 to Aug. 3.
But Georgetown students, singles of all ages, families and seniors have the right to enjoy their pools from early June well into September. We believe the city has a responsibility to keep them open. They will be used — schoolchildren will even come after school. And they need not be staffed solely by youth grant recipients.
Here’s an idea. The Washington Post recently published a story with the headline: “Why your pool’s lifeguard is more likely to be a senior citizen.” Not in the District. But we’recertain that there is a pool (so to speak) of healthy, active seniors who are excellent swimmers — included some former lifeguards — ready, willing and able to work at our pools a few days a week from mid-spring through early fall.