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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Staying cool in the pool: County aquatics facilities open mid-heat wave

Moms splashed about with their toddlers in the shallow water. Dozens of kids waited in line to try out the new slides. A group of friends tossed a football as they worked their way along the lazy river.

It looked like a typical opening day at the Southside Family Aquatics Facility at Prairie View Community Park. But after COVID-19 kept pools closed all last summer, this year’s opening day seemed more meaningful.

“It feels really awesome just because it’s been so long since we’ve been able to go swimming,” 11-year-old Slate Holtsclaw said.

Opening day was special and well-attended for another reason: It was 102 degrees out.

“It’s so hot,” Holtsclaw said with a groan.

It was so hot Monday hardly any parents lounged on the pool chairs. Nearly everyone at the facility was in the water.

Sarah Fitzgerald, Spokane County’s recreation program manager, said she felt a rush of emotions when she saw the first swimmers of the year – a mom with her kid – walk up to the pool entrance Monday. The two were the first visitors at Southside since 2019.

“I almost hugged her,” Fitzgerald said, adding that she took a picture with the two visitors.

Some vestiges of the pandemic still remain. For a few more days , you’ll need a reservation to swim at county pools. That’s because Washington’s Phase 3 COVID-19 guidelines put capacity limitations on the facilities.

Southside is capped at 150 visitors per three-hour session and has two three-hour sessions daily.

Fitzgerald said she recommends people make reservations at least four days before they plan to swim. The county accepts reservations up to 14 days in advance on its website.

The 300-people-per-day ceiling is a significant decrease compared to a typical day at the pool, Fitzgerald said.

Southside normally is capped at 500 people at a time, which often adds up to a maximum of 800 visitors in a day.

On typical days, Fitzgerald said, “we would start to have a line down the sidewalk.”

Capacity restrictions could end soon, with Gov. Jay Inslee expected to relax the state’s COVID-19 restrictions at the start of July. Spokane City pools will open next week and might require reservations depending on Inslee’s decision.

Fitzgerald said the transition to online reservations – which the county didn’t use for pools before the pandemic – has gone fairly smoothly. People seem to understand the new system and haven’t been showing up without reservations.

Tiffany Olson, who came to opening day with her 11-year-old daughter and one of her daughter’s friends, said if she hadn’t gotten a reservation she’d be “hiding out in the house” with the air conditioning on.

Multiple pool visitors said if they hadn’t been able to come to the pool they’d just be sitting around inside.

Olson said her family did have access to a pool last year, but it’s good to be able to walk to the nearby county pool again.

“I’m excited that the kids can get outside and do a normal activity,” Olson said.

Holtsclaw is a big swimming fan. His mom, Charice Holtsclaw, said the family went back to Missouri – where they used to live – twice last year, in large part so they could get in the water.

As excited as Slate Holtsclaw was to get in the county pool again, he was more excited about the two new water slides that the county installed in 2020.

“That’s the main reason I’m here,” he said seriously.