Arlington Heights Park District residents leading way to outdoor swimming, state issues new guidance
Arlington Heights Park District residents are among the few in the suburbs beginning to take advantage of an opportunity to burn at least 423 calories an hour in the water.
Swimmers delighted in a sunny Saturday morning over three, one-hour lap sessions in individual lanes at the Pioneer Park pool, 500 S. Fernandez Ave. Reservations and a punch pass are required, with a 10-swimmer limit per session, social distancing and other health measures in place.
On Friday night, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued updated guidance for the opening of aquatic and playground facilities that could expand opportunities. For swimming, operators now are able to accommodate a maximum of 50 people, allowing for social distancing where possible, according to the Phase 4 plan.
"However, multiple groups of up to 50 people may be permitted if facilities allow for social distancing of guests and employees; 30 feet of distancing is maintained between groups; and areas for each group are clearly marked to discourage interaction between groups," according to the state.
Steve Neill, superintendent of recreation facilities for the Arlington Heights parks, said officials were evaluating the state's new guidance for aquatics and playgrounds.
At the Pioneer Park pool Saturday, Mary Pletch, a longtime swimmer who competed for the University of Illinois, was among those who attended a one-hour session. The swimming opportunities, which began Friday, are restricted to park district residents.
Pletch said she was concerned she would not be able to get into a pool this year and complimented the park district for keeping its options open while other suburban swimming facilities closed for the season.
"There's no substitute for swimming," Pletch said before hitting the water. "I've been biking to try to keep in shape, but there's no fallback plan for swimmers."
Light or moderate lap swimming burns at least 423 calories per hour, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Brian Forrest said he was glad to get into the pool because swimming is an important part of his summer exercise.
Another Pioneer Park swimmer, Nancy Majkowski, also expressed appreciation for the opening.
"I came (Friday), the first day back, and despite the rain, we were able to swim a full hour," Majkowski said. "It's so great. The park district is doing a great job keeping us safe and healthy and making sure that everybody gets a chance to get in the pool."
Park district aquatic manager Lindsey Robertson said kickboards and other equipment are being sanitized between pool sessions, along with locker-room showers, toilets, sinks and soap dispensers.
"Pretty much any common touch point that had been used in the last hour, we're sanitizing it," Robertson said.
Citing COVID-19 concerns, summer public pool closures have been announced in the suburbs, including Barrington, Hoffman Estates, Northbrook, Libertyville, Bloomingdale and Algonquin. However, Neill said Arlington Heights park officials didn't want to pull the plug until there was definitive information from the state.
Neill said 620 children were registered within the first four days for a swim team program after the opportunity was launched about a week ago. He said the children will be placed in groups to receive a one-hour session with a coach spread over multiple times over five days.
"It just reinforces it's a swimming town for all ages," Neill said. "The adults are here lap swimming. The kids are registering for classes. It's really, really important for the whole community."
The pool at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights remains on target for a July 6 opening, Neill said.
Lap swimming, water walking and lessons are being offered for residents and nonresidents at the neighboring Palatine Park District's Eagle and Birchwood pools.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs or aquatic playgrounds. Proper operation and disinfection of pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the CDC.