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A COVID-19 Summer: Pools and aquatic facilities at Milwaukee County Parks to remain closed

Milwaukee County Parks is bracing for a season that looks drastically different from a typical Milwaukee summer, which will be a season without swimming pools or water parks.

With many Milwaukee County Parks venues currently closed as a result of the pandemic, physical distancing recommendations still place, and group sizes still limited, safe pool operations are compromised.

“Every decision we’re making right now is focused on the safety of our park visitors and our staff,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “It’s essential that our services support public health. Unfortunately, the challenges of both COVID-19 and the county’s fiscal reality have brought us to this difficult decision.”

A lack of lifeguards in the current climate also presents hiring challenges. Milwaukee County Parks needs more than 300 lifeguards to fully staff its aquatic facilities. Finding that number of lifeguards has become a struggle in recent years, and COVID-19 has made hiring even more difficult.

Cool Waters Aquatic Park in Greenfield Park, Schulz Aquatic Park in Lincoln Park, nine outdoor pools, and the two indoor pools at Pulaski and Noyes will remain closed over the summer. Lifeguards will not be present at Bradford Beach either.

COVID-19 has taken dramatic tolls on both Parks and county budgets. Milwaukee County continues to provide front line services in response to the pandemic, but increased costs, coupled with $132 million in lost revenue, has led to drastic impacts on the county’s ability to provide needed services.

The County has already seen an estimated $450 million impact on the budget and is calling on State and Federal officials to provide additional resources for the County, so that they may continue to provide the level of service that county residents need and deserve. The County remains hopeful that many splash pads and wading pools, which do not require trained lifeguards, will still be able to open to provide relief from summer heat to neighborhoods across the county.

“We’re developing park operations plans that are designed to ensure social distancing, prevent congregating, and protect the health of the public and employees,” said Guy Smith, Executive Director of the Milwaukee County Parks. “Our ability to reopen facilities will also be dependent on available staffing. Because of the fiscal challenges brought on by the pandemic, Parks has 80% fewer seasonal staff this summer than in typical years.”

The extended deep-well pool closures include Cool Waters Aquatic Park in Greenfield Park, Schulz Aquatic Center in Lincoln Park, Pelican Cove in Kosciuszko Park, Noyes Indoor Pool, Pulaski Indoor Pool, and outdoor pools at Washington Park, McCarty Park, Jackson Park, Sheridan Park, Holler Park, Hales Corners Park, Wilson Park and Grobschmidt Pool. Hoyt Park Pool, which is operated by the non-profit, Friends of Hoyt Park, is still planning to open this summer.

The Milwaukee Independent began reporting on what was then referred to as the mysterious “Wuhan Virus” in January. Other local media did not picked-up on the story until many weeks later. Our early features focused on the economic impact, social issues, and health concerns long before other Milwaukee news organizations even mentioned the coronavirus. Over the following months, we have published more than 450 articles about the pandemic and how it has affected the lives of Milwaukee residents. This extensive body of work can be found on our COVID-19 Special Report page, a chronological index of links by month. Our editorial voice remains dedicated to informing the public about this health crisis for as long as it persists.
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