In the 46 years I’ve lived in Oak Park, I have generally had high regard for our park district. But their pool closure decision falls short of meeting our community’s needs. After concluding they could not open Oak Park pools without eliminating 100 percent of the risk, they threw in the towel.

Funny thing, several other municipal park districts have opened their pools. 

Arlington Heights, with five pools, has reopened some and is phasing in the rest, figuring out the best ways to abide by IDPH’s state guidelines. Lake Bluff’s pool opened July 1. Glenview lap swimming is open, with capacity reduced to 100 people for each three-hour swim. Yorkville’s Raging Waves water park is finalizing their reopening plan with IDPH to ensure a safe experience.

Aurora’s three outdoor splash pads began opening last week. Aurora Park District Executive Director Jim Pilmer, quoted in the June 30 Chicago Tribune, stated, “With the guidelines coming out in phase three, ‘Here’s how you can open your aquatic facilities for therapeutic and lap swimming and competitive swimming,’ that is an obligation being a public agency, to make it work.” (Read the full article here: )

That’s the right attitude and the responsible approach.

PDOP, there’s still time for you to make it work. Still time to contact other park districts and learn the strategies they are using, especially how to ensure the safety of lifeguards while performing rescues. Still time to hire and train lifeguards and other staff, who may be available into the school year if they choose online learning or homeschooling. Still time to consider extending the pool season into September. Still time to adopt the good suggestions submitted to you by Oak Parkers, such as: close locker rooms and concessions. Require mask-wearing at all times except when swimming. Limit capacity to 100 or 150 people at a time, give them an hour or two, then let in another group. Designate days and times for seniors only, lap swimmers only, family units or social pods. Take reservations online for those designated times. Listen to community comments and make adjustments and accommodations as the season unfolds.

Our community needs the pools, not just for recreation but for our mental and physical health. Recognize your obligation as a public agency and make it work. Don’t let this summer’s aquatic recreation go down the drain.

Ellen Edwards

Oak Park resident since 1974

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