Pools

Lifeguards Quinlin Taylor, left, and Katie Mallet
Michael Minasi for KUT

Many Austin pools close this weekend, ahead of school re-opening next week. But there are still a few more days to get in a swim at your neighborhood pool. And while you're there, maybe you'll hear what Madeline Fening hears when it's time for people to get out of the pool for a five-minute break:

Kids swim in a pool.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

With the opening of the Walnut Creek and Mabel Davis pools over the weekend, all municipal pools in Austin are up and running for the summer. The city says it's waiting until smaller neighborhood pools are properly staffed before opening them, however.

Christopher Connelly/KERA

Texas regularly leads the nation in drowning deaths, and this year is shaping up to be no different. At least 122 people have died from drowning in Texas this year, according to statistics kept by Swimming USA, and most of those deaths have happened since May 1.

Because the heat came early this year and scorching temperatures are setting new records, Texans have been flocking to pools, lakes and rivers for relief all summer. And there are many more blisteringly hot days to come.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Nine-year-old Janiyah Johnson shows off her lung capacity.

“Count! Quickly!” she shouts at a reporter who dutifully begins counting the young girl’s time underwater. At her very best, she spends 14 seconds fully submerged.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Earlier this year, Austin announced that it would have to close Givens Pool on East 12th Street for the summer. A couple weeks later, it revealed that Mabel Davis in Southeast Austin would need to close, too. A total of four pools are closed this season. The reason? Leaking and aging infrastructure.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Paul Slutes is accustomed to less-than-enthusiastic welcomes.

At times, this often resembles a recent scene at Balcones Pool: Despondent swimmers greet him, seated on the concrete with their knees to their chins. Forty minutes earlier, a lifeguard closed the pool because of low chlorine levels. That’s why Slutes is here.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Adrian Ortega stood back from the pool at the Austin Motel on South Congress Avenue looking uncertain.

“I have done nothing like this before,” said Ortega, a former Austin lifeguard who now oversees the city’s aquatics programs, including swim teams. “It’s totally outside of my comfort zone.”

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

The City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department will present the latest version of its Aquatics Master Plan to the public in two meetings this week.

Spencer Selvidge / KUT

In the photo, a curly-haired woman stares into the camera wearing a red lifeguard bathing suit, holding a long, red rectangular flotation device over her shoulder.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

At a city-run job fair back in March, 15-year-old Jake Santema awaited an interview with city staff as part of the process to become a summer lifeguard signed up to be a lifeguard.

“I’m a little nervous of the feeling of having someone’s life on my hands,” said Santema. “It sounds nerve-wracking a little bit.”


darrellrhodesmiller from flickr

As visitors to Austin-area pools multiply, some local municipalities are having a hard time accommodating all those would-be swimmers. That’s the case with Hamilton Pool, which is managed by Travis County.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

As the temperature in Austin climbs, kids and adults flock to the city’s several dozen pools. But while the industry puts a pool’s lifespan at 30 years, many of Austin’s are 50 years or older. So in 2012, the city decided it would create an Aquatic Master Plan, a document that would imagine the future of Austin’s pools. That process is now in its third and final phase of completion.


flickr.com/photos/tabor-roeder

Seventy-three children died in Texas last year from a single cause. And so far this year, 56 children have died as a result of that same cause: drowning.

And, while there are efforts at both the statewide and local levels to educate adults on how to avoid drowning deaths, children of color are disproportionately represented among the victims.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

Although the city’s Parks and Recreation Department ordered the repair of an East Austin neighborhood pool in late April, it appears that the department had bids for the work for some time. This, even as department officials initially told residents that the pool would have to be closed for the 2015 summer season and then back-tracked under community pressure.

On Nov. 5, 2014 (see below), the Parks Department received a bid from Commercial Swim Management for Metz Pool repairs totaling $10,232.60. Those repairs included replacement of the plumbing in a pool wall drain and installation of new valves and piping. That bid was eventually approved, and a purchase request was made by the city on April 30, 2015.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

The triple-digit summer heat typically leads more Central Texans towards pools and lakes to cool off. Unfortunately, it also raises the risk of drownings. Seventy-three children drowned in Texas last year. And this year is looking just as bad – so far 44 kids have drowned — most of whom were children of color.

Audrey McGlinchy/flickr

School’s letting out for summer, and swimming pool season’s getting underway. But some of Austin’s pools aren’t ready for swimmers, at least not yet.

During last week’s floods, images circulated of Barton Springs Pool looking like a raging river. The water’s receded since then, but now, small islands of drying mud float atop murky, green water.

But there aren’t any swimmers. “Just a few ducks and some divers,” said Andrei Mellin, who was in town visiting from Cincinatti. He and his family showed up to Barton Springs, towels in hand, only to find out that the pool isn’t open.

via Flickr/smreilly

From the Austin Monitor: Citing budget shortfalls, water conservation issues and a lack of lifeguards, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department says it will close two pools and cut back pool operating hours this summer.

The department says it would cost the city $41 million to bring all of its public pools into good repair.

According to a memo written by Parks and Recreation Department Director Sara Hensley to the mayor and City Council, a shortage in lifeguards means that the city will not be able to open pools June 5, which is the first day of summer break.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

Last year, we met Redding McArdle outside Hyde Park’s Shipe Pool. The two-year-old wore blue arm floats and a bathing suit, but the gates to the pool were locked, and McArdle had a slightly dejected look on his face.

KUT

Update: The City of Austin opened three more pools over the weekend. 24 city pools are now open, while 10 remain closed.

All pools were originally scheduled to open Friday, June 6.  The city is still hiring and training lifeguards to staff the remainder of the pools.

Original story (June 12): Outside Shipe Pool Wednesday afternoon, two-year-old Redding McArdle wore two blue, inflatable arm floats – one on each arm.

But instead of splashing in the pool, Redding ran around the playground in his swim trunks because the Hyde Park neighborhood pool he’d come to swim in was closed today.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The City of Austin wants to hear from people who use the city’s pools and splash pads – and from those who don’t.

The city is putting together an assessment of its aquatics facilities. The average age of one in Austin is about 40 years old.

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The City of Austin is reporting a shortage of people applying to be lifeguards. The Aquatics Division of the Parks and Recreation Department needs more  applicants than it has jobs for, because not everyone will get through the training.

“We have 600 positions open, but they need a thousand applicants to fill those 600 positions, because, not everybody has the qualifications," Parks and Recreation spokesperson Victor Ovalle said.

flickr.com/atmtx/

The YMCA of Austin is trying to recruit lifeguards earlier this year.

In order to prevent last year’s shortage of lifeguards, the YMCA of Austin has expanded its schedule of YMCA and American Red Cross Lifeguarding Certification classes this spring.

Last summer, the YMCA hired 200 lifeguards. This summer, they're hoping to hire 250. But, YMCA spokesperson Sean Doles said the lifeguard shortage was not an issue just at the YMCA, but in the community as a whole—and even across the nation.

City of Austin

The City of Austin’s Aquatic Division manages over 50 public pool facilities. The Bartholomew Pool, in particular, has demanded significant time and funding from the city since 2009.

Now, the city says the pool will need even more time and money before it's ready to reopen.

Chip Skambis

The Dell Children’s Medical Center dealt with five drowning incidents last weekend, including one confirmed fatality. Doctors say the incidents serve as a powerful reminder of the need for water safety, especially for children.

“Having been in the ER now for almost 32 years, watching the parents and feeling and sharing their pain, I can say these events are just tragic—and, for the most part, preventable,” Dell Children’s chief of emergency medicine Dr. Pat Crocker says.

Crocker noted three steps parents could take to prevent drowning incidents. One is simply keeping an eye on their kids in the pool, because most children don’t have a chance to make any noise before going under.

Deep Eddy Pool Reopens

May 4, 2012
KUT News

Deep Eddy Pool is back open today — or at least part of it.

The deep end of Deep Eddy is open today. The shallow end opens up tomorrow at 10 a.m. The oldest swimming pool in Texas, Deep Eddy has been shut down since last year for a full round of renovations.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department says the pool bottom has been replaced and the west end now features a zero depth entry. Visitors will also notice new decks and new retaining walls with seating. 

View City of Austin Pools Proposed for Closure in a larger map

Six neighborhood pools could be closed by the City of Austin, as it looks for ways to reduce expenses in the face of a budget deficit as high as $28 million. Two more pools could be closed from September to April to save on water heating costs. The total estimated savings from the closures would be $405,626, according to the Parks and Recreation department.

The pools are Kennemer, Gillis, Civitan, Kealing, Reed, and Shipe. Balcones and Dick Nichols Pools would be closed from September to April.