Spaulding Pond in Norwich is officially not opening this summer following budget concerns.
The city is hoping to provide a few free trips to Ocean Beach since Spaulding Pond will be closed.
Norwich budget concerns initially put money for Spaulding Pond lifeguards on the chopping block. When the council voted to restore the approximately $38,000 budget item but the city was too late to hire lifeguards.
Despite dropping the age limit and targeting swimming coaches, the American Red Cross, even other beaches, the city could not fill the void, Lee-Ann Gomes, Human Services Director for the City of Norwich, said.
Gomes said the city was able to hire two of the four lifeguards it needed to staff the pond, but eventually, they found other employment.
Starting last Friday, and for the next two Fridays, the City of Norwich will provide free trips to Ocean Beach for Norwich residents, using some of the funds allocated for lifeguards. If there’s enough demand, there may also be a trip scheduled for Labor Day, Gomes said.
People can reserve their seat with the Norwich Recreation Department or just show up to the department at 75 Mohegan Road to catch the bus on a first-come-first-served basis. The bus will depart at 10 a.m. and leave Ocean Beach at 2 p.m.
"I think it’s great for the city and the people that don’t have money and resources to get to the beaches, and things like that," said resident Zakiea Robinson said. She is planning on taking advantage of the service with her young daughter on August 25.
The city is hoping to use the leftover budgeted money to hire lifeguards early next year, Gomes said.
"Hopefully there won’t be any threats to the budget next year, so we’ll be able to bring people on board nice and early and train them up," Gomes said.
Gomes said this year the city also got a grant for swimming lessons, but because Spaulding Pond didn’t have lifeguards, they couldn’t put it into effect. Norwich doesn’t have a YMCA, she said, and hopes next year they will be able to teach kids in the area how to swim.