Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the opening weekend for Prince William County’s public pools and waterparks. But most of those facilities won’t open at all this season because of constraints due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The county’s department of parks, recreation and tourism made the announcement in a press release Thursday. The biggest challenge, the press release said, is timing.
The ongoing stay-at-home order has made it impossible for the county to train staff and prepare to open its four public pools and two waterparks.
Collectively, the county’s pools and attractions attract about 200,000 visits a year and are the largest seasonal employer for Prince William County teens, according to the county’s announcement.
“We came to the conclusion it is not feasible without placing people at risk, and safety is our top priority,” Seth Hendler-Voss, director of the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, said in the county press release.
“We understand how disappointing this must be for the thousands of visitors who depend on us for summer memories and relief from the heat. We regret we could not find a way forward.”
The biggest barrier to opening the pools for the upcoming season is the inability to train and prepare seasonal staff in time to operate during the summer of 2020 due to ongoing social distancing guidance, parks and recreation spokesman Brent Heavner said in the release.
During a regular summer season, the department normally hires between 600 and 800 seasonal staff, the release said.
“The county’s pools and waterparks rely on a large seasonal staff including lifeguards, park attendants, cooks, concessionaires, and other team members,” Heavner said in the release.
“Much of the safety training these positions require, especially our lifeguards, requires close contact. That training cannot begin until social distancing guidance guidelines are lifted, as anticipated in Phase Three of the Commonwealth’s ‘Forward Virginia Blueprint.”
“With Phase One reopening for Northern Virginia anticipated to begin at the end of May, and social distancing guidelines anticipated to remain through Phase Two, the training required for many seasonal pool positions would not likely be able to begin until mid-July,” the release said.
“By the time we would be able to complete staff training and ready our outdoor aquatic facilities for opening, we would be very late into the pool season when we would usually be preparing to close several of those facilities down for the summer,” Heavner said in the release.
The county is exploring the feasibility of opening the indoor pools within its two recreation centers once doing so is safe and practical based on the state’s Forward Virginia Blueprint, the release said.