Steve Pham

The swim season now is in full swing, but not for all.

In our sister publication, Aquatics International, we report on the issues facing aquatics facilities. And as the commercial side of the pool industry climbs out of the pandemic, we know many, if not most facilities, are experiencing tougher-than-usual times hiring the necessary staff to stay open. And sadly, some pools will continue to stay closed for this and other reasons.

I recently was surprised to learn that my own local community pool has cut its opening hours to less than half of what it used to be pre-pandemic. This includes shorter hours on Saturdays and permanent closures on Sundays. The city claims these cuts are due to budget restraints. This closure will be effective for the next two years.

Frankly, I call B.S. I live in Santa Monica, Calif., and while the city has definitely suffered the economic impact of COVID-19 (who hasn’t?), the City Council’s decision to close the pool for half the weekend shows that they do not prioritize the well-known benefits of aquatic exercise and play for its community, not to mention the lifesaving opportunities for swim lessons.

This decision has alarmed enough residents to take action and participate in a write-in campaign to City Council members to urge them to rethink how the budget is allocated.

Their argument is sound: In addition to the Santa Monica Swim Center’s reduced hours, the fees will be increased 10% to 26%, on top of a 9% increase last summer. In addition, the City is receiving funds from the American Recovery Act, along with local measures, not to mention the recovering economy.

The outcome of the pushback against the pool’s budget is not known at presstime. It’s beyond discouraging to see a well-to-do beach city not prioritizing something as essential as an aquatics facility, especially a busy and popular one, during a time when people are eager to reclaim a sense of normalcy. As you know, these types of facilities provide vital services and help bring communities together.

But most importantly, commercial pools feed the residential market. And while demand for backyard pools currently is high, it’s the steady stream of future swimmers that will guarantee the desire for residential pools long after the pandemic-driven surge subsides.

That’s why I believe it’s crucial to support your community’s aquatics facilities. Get involved, help rally your community members and businesses to successfully keep these pools open. Fight for your neighbors’ access to pools! Because down the line, it’s that neighbor who will be needing your services — whether it’s building their new pool, maintaining it or buying products for it — in the near future.