‘It just didn’t make sense for us to open them this year’: No swimming pools open this summer at VA, TN State Parks

Virginia News

TRI-CITIES, Va./Tenn. (WJHL) – For the second year, swimming pools at Tennessee and Virginia State Parks will not be opening this Memorial Day weekend.

It’s important to note the Director of Virginia State Parks Melissa Baker told WFXR’s sister station that the parks are not closing the pools but rather just not opening them, as they have been closed for a year and a half already.

From COVID-19 restrictions to staffing issues, park officials in both states found it was impossible for them to open the pools in time for summer.

“We have to hire lifeguards and staff to staff it,” Baker said. “Obviously, that’s a challenge for us. Everyone’s having trouble getting staffing right now, and others that we know that are in the swimming pool business are struggling to get lifeguards as well.”

But staffing was not the only issue they faced.

“We have to remember these pools have been closed for a year and a half, so there’s a lot of cleaning that has to happen,” she said. “Startup of mechanical systems troubleshooting doing any repairs that are there, and there are always repairs there.”

Officials said it usually takes about six to eight weeks, and sometimes longer, to get a swimming pool running, generally starting work at the beginning of March, to have them open for Memorial Day weekend.

“At best case scenario if we were able to have staffing, if we were able to dedicate time to getting in there and cleaning out the bowl — it’d be really optimistic to think that we could open up by the Fourth of July, and by the end there’s only a few weeks left of the summer, and they’re really expensive to start off, and then to shut down as well,” Baker added. “And so when you put all those factors together. It just didn’t make sense for us to open them this year.”

Tennessee State Parks rolled the dice in March and decided that none of its park swimming pools would open this summer due to potential COVID-19 restrictions.

A spokesperson for Tennessee State Parks released the following statement to sister station WJHL:

“TN State Parks does not have anyone available for an interview but sent this statement: Opening pools requires significant lead time well in advance of an upcoming season to prepare the pools and to hire the lifeguards and staff required to operate. While COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue in Tennessee, State Parks had to make a decision in early March about reopening community pools. At that time, the COVID-19 vaccination rate and the infection rate were uncertain, which prevented State Parks from being able to adequately prepare the pools and hire lifeguards and staff for the season. Therefore, State Parks had to make the decision in March not to reopen community pools this year. Unfortunately, the time window has passed for state parks to get pools up and running and hire the amount of staff needed to operate this season.”

Kim Schofinski, Deputy Communications Director for TN State Parks

State Park officials also pointed out that it costs a lot of money to open and close a pool at the beginning and end of summer.

“Our biggest fear is that we would spend all the money to open up a swimming pool, and then not be able to open it because when we would have needed to start it, that work,” Baker said. “We were still very much in the middle of the pandemic and not knowing what was going to happen this summer.

“Aside from the lifeguard issue, all of the things that it takes to get a public pool up and running of the size that we operate, we just wouldn’t be able to get all of the mechanicals and everything done in time.”

Officials said there are plenty of other activities to take part in at state parks.

“I know this is disappointing to people who like to come and use our swimming pools and we will be excited to get them open again, but there’s still lots to do out at the parks and I’d encourage people to come visit,” she added.

Northeast Tennessee State Parks

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Southwest Virginia State Parks

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