Splashing around on a sweltering day, Crystal Garcia and one-year-old daughter Eva tried to beat the heat Monday.
They were among dozens of families at Manchester’s “SprayGround.” The splash-pad, complete giant water fountains and oscillating streams of water, was one way to cool off in 90-degree heat.
“We have a sprinkler at home but it’s nice to see Eva interact with other kids and she likes it,” said Garcia.
Manchester’s splash pad opened last weekend, seemingly, just in time for this week’s heatwave. With most public swimming areas not yet open, this was among the few options available.
With sizzling temperatures all around, recreation departments like East Hartford’s are preparing. They’re prepping pool areas and hiring as they sense an early-season demand.
“People were wondering when the pools were going to open and what’s the summer schedule,” said East Hartford Parks & Recreation Director Ted Fravel.
East Hartford operates five public swimming pools and two wading pools. Before they’re operational, more work needs to be done. They said they are aiming to open around June 19.
In the meantime, people could be seeking solace at a park lake, most of which do not have lifeguards at the moment. Vernon’s recreation department, which operates Valley Falls, advises strongly against swimming in theses area until lifeguards are in place later this month.
“I know how hot it can be. I know how miserable it can be. But tragedy happens when proper precautions are in place,” said Vernon Parks & Recreation Director Marty Sitler.
Lifeguards are a critical component when it comes to public swimming areas. However, many municipalities are still staffing in that area.
Manchester said it currently has about 30 lifeguards. Still, short of their needs.
“To operate our five pools, we need almost 40 to 50 lifeguards,” said Josh Charette, Manchester’s recreation supervisor.
To compensate, the town said Waddell School pool will not open this season.
In East Hartford, they too have 30 lifeguards on staff but are currently putting another 19 through certification class, providing a range of training.
Vernon operates three public swimming locations, including Camp Newhoca. Town Administrator Mike Purcaro said the town has aggressively recruited and trained lifeguards through the spring and should be ready when they officially open soon.
“We are fully staffed to open in two weeks but we’re still training folks and getting people up and running,” said Purcaro.
Among the things returning, once pools do open, are swimming lessons. Manchester’s recreation department said this is a fundamental need that kids missed out on last year.
“You see a difference. When they’re in lessons, they have confidence compared to when they don’t have those lessons,” added Charette.
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