All 18 of the District’s outdoor pools and 19 spray parks will open to the public Saturday. Through June 22, hours of operation are limited to weekends, 12pm to 6pm. Beginning June 23, the normal summer schedule begins, with facilities open all week.
To kick off the Memorial Day weekend, the Department of Parks and Recreation took a plunge. Mayor Vincent Gray served as an honorary lifeguard and department staff jumped in feet first at Fort Stanton Pool in Southeast, officially starting the summer pool season.
In previous years, D.C. residents have complained about inadequate facilities, lack of maintenance, absent staff and poor management.
At Francis Pool last June, parents were outraged when their children exited the water covered in blue paint.
And in the fall, there were accusations of after-hours sexual assault, allegedly involving employees at the Wilson Aquatic Center.
But this summer, D.C. Government leaders say they have learned from the past, and they're in great shape.
“Will there be zero issues? I can't guarantee that, because that's life,” said Brian Hanlon, Director of the Department of General Services. “Things happen. But our team, I'm confident, will get out there to address them quickly and effectively and keep them running.”
DPR officials said they are still hiring lifeguards, but many are returning.
DPR Director Sharia Shanklin said, “They've had that experience with the large crowds, and with the patrons that have either low to no skill. They are very skilled at ensuring that they're safe.”
Still, each year at this event, DPR and the American Red Cross emphasize the importance of D.C. residents learning how to swim.
American Red Cross Product Manager Stephanie Shook said, “If fear is the thing that is holding you back, take that step of courage, that leap of faith. Everybody that I've ever known in all my years that's learned to swim has never regretted it.”