People playing at City Park Waterpark. (Courtesy City of Manhattan Parks & Rec.)

Following a year where none of Manhattan’s water parks were open due to COVID-19, the city says it is moving ahead with plans to open at least some of its public swimming pools.

City Manager Ron Fehr spoke recently about some of the challenges the city faces as it looks to bring back some semblance of a work staff a hiring freeze was implemented last year.

“People really don’t know what’s going to happen, so a lot of our recruitment efforts are slower than normal in trying to replace those positions. Gearing back up and filling critical positions and being able to open facilities and operate those facilities is one of our challenges,” he said.

The city says Parks Division staff typically spend 1,000 or more hours during the winter preparing the three pools for opening, which has not been possible this year. More than 125 staff positions remain unfilled and applications are being accepted now through the city’s website.

In addition, the city also plans to adopt new protocols and procedures including limited attendance to the pools. Mayor Wynn Butler says it’s on the city to be prepared as more people get vaccinated to get things like the pools back open.

“We need to look at it as saying we’ll probably have success with this Operation Warp Speed vaccine thing by the summer, and that’s the attitude we’ve got to have. To send the right message, to get business going and get everything back opened up, Parks & Rec is going to play a big role in that,” he said.

The city said this week it’s shooting for a May 22 opening of the City Park and Northview Park pools. The CiCo Park pool will likely remain closed through the summer.

“The goal is to open as many resources for recreation as possible this summer, including two of the three water parks, while doing so safely and responsibly,” said Aquatics Division Supervisor Sydni Baker. “We’ll do everything we can to make the water parks safe for everyone who wants to visit.”

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