It’s only a month into the season and the Wauseon community pool has already been a cool respite for more than 7,000 people.
What’s equally impressive is the respect and attention they’ve paid to the COVID-19 restrictions that permit the pool to be open, manager Tom Burkholder said.
“You have people being a lot more cautious, but outside of that it’s business as usual,” he said.
Because Wauseon has the only operating community pool in the area the city is welcoming guests from places across the region, including Toledo and Michigan. The capacity limit for the approximately 19,000 square-foot pool and deck area was expanded last week from 166 people to 195, and Burkholder said about 250 people attend during a good weather day.
“We’re getting more out-of-town people than we’re used to,” he said.
The majority of guests are obeying social distancing rules, although teenagers usually need multiple reminders, Burkholder said. Only minor problems have arisen, such as having to remind visitors that the six-foot distancing rule doesn’t allow them to move around chairs on the pool deck. Those sitting poolside are not required to wear masks but are encouraged.
Maintaining social distancing in the pool is a bit trickier, Burkholder said. ‘There’s only so much we can do. We’re still requesting no rough-housing. Most of the people close to each other in the water are family members.”
Lifeguards, who are not required to wear masks while on duty, also try to encourage guests in the water to keep a safe distance.
Since the pool opened May 29 no one has been asked to leave for disobeying restrictions, Burkholder said. Public Service Director Keith Torbet, who was among city officials who rallied to open the pool this season, previously warned that the operation could be closed early in the season if coronavirus restrictions were not followed.
Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case, Burkholder said. “When you get families and parents, they do well with (the rules),” he said. “Most people that come to the pool are just happy we’re open, and they follow the rules because they know we have them in place for a reason. We’re doing everything we can to make it as safe as possible.”
As for the possibility that someone with asymptomatic COVID-19 symptoms could be present, “Nowadays, I feel that’s a risk anywhere you go,” Burkholder said.
Pool staff is doing its part by sanitizing diving board and slide rails and pool ladders every two hours. Restrooms routinely receive extra cleanings, and poolside tables and chairs are spray-sanitized after each use.
“It’s just extra work to keep everybody safe,” Burkholder said.
Concession stand workers are required to wear masks and wash their hands frequently, and the staff members at the pool’s front desk greet visitors behind Plexiglas and wearing masks. The bathhouses are limited to a total of 20 people, and are monitored.
If stormy weather arrives, guests are asked to wait in their cars until it blows over.
Burkholder said the only real issue to arise is the possible five- to 20-minute wait for admission on busy days due to capacity limits. He said some people with day passes aren’t pleased with the delay.
“We get some complaints,” he said. “In previous years, people with day passes could come and go as they please. People don’t like rules and feel we’re making them up as we go.”
A complete list of COVID-19 rules is placed at the front desk, he added.
Torbet said he’s satisfied with the public’s level of cooperation. “Eighty-five percent of the people abide by the rules. We’re not having any issues,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the work (Burkholder) and his staff are doing to keep on top of things. I did not want to have any problems with people being able to comply with social distancing.”
Torbet said if people continue to follow restrictions there’s a possibility the city could increase guest capacity, although the numbers wouldn’t increase much more. “We don’t want to do it at the risk of anyone’s safety,” he said. “(But) we want to give our citizens something to do.”
Burkholder said business at the pool has proceeded relatively well. He said the plan is to close a week after school begins in August, and until then people will be encouraged to continue following the rules.
“Some of them, it’s the only form of entertainment for their kids,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.