Squeals of delight emanating from Turner Valley’s outdoor pool reflect the elation many people are feeling after public health restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic were lifted on July 1.
"We are very happy to get back to normal, especially to put some normalcy back into the kids’ lives,” said Turner Valley mother of three Erica Kronstal while at the pool with her family on July 6. “We are happy that the swimming lessons are going on this year. We definitely missed it.”
Swimming lessons weren’t offered at Dr. Lander Memorial Swimming Pool last season due to Alberta Health Services’ standards for outdoor pools in the first summer of the pandemic.
Kronstal said it was a big void, especially for her two oldest children who are five and seven years old this summer.
“We always tell our kids that swimming lessons are not a choice, that swimming is a life skill,” she said. “It’s important, if we’re going to play in the river and lakes, that they’re safe on the water.”
With both Kronstal and her husband double vaccinated, she said they feel more protected than ever taking part in public activities during the pandemic.
Monique LeBlanc, Turner Valley community services and business development manager, said the Town followed the Province’s lead on July 1 as it entered Stage 3 of its reopening plan.
At Stage 3, all public health measures were lifted (except for isolation and quarantine requirements and masking requirements in health care settings and public transit) two weeks after vaccination targets were reached and hospitalizations declined.
The Dr. Lander Memorial Swimming Pool opened June 7 after the Town entered into a three-year agreement with Okotoks to contract the facility and neighbouring spray park’s management of staffing and programming to Okotoks in order to establish consistency in staffing and service levels.
“We’re just delighted that we’re able to offer full services again and welcome back everyone to the pool for a great summer ahead of us,” said LeBlanc.
She said an online booking system was introduced, with priority given to Black Diamond, Foothills County and Turner Valley residents.
“We continue to give residents the seven-day advance booking opportunities and, therefore, they are able to book ahead of non-residents,” he said.
With restrictions lifted, LeBlanc said patrons can now book the facility for birthday parties and other celebrations, which were restricted to family household units last year.
Aquatics team lead Daniel Robinson said pool capacity is set at 120 for public swim to meet the existing resource level.
“This season, we have one public swim ending and another public swim starting back to back,” he said. “There are 240 people crossing pathways in and out at the same time.”
Robinson said several adjustments had to be made as staff shifted to Stage 1, 2 and 3 in just one month.
“Our biggest adjustment was no restrictions in July and looking at how to run the facility, pre bookings, how to run the schedule and using the resources we have available,” he said. “It’s been a rollercoaster.”
Despite the challenges, Robinson said it’s evident that residents are happy.
“In terms of turnout it’s been excellent,” he said. “We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback.”
Turner Valley mom Chelsea Vogel, whose family missed an entire season at the pool last year, said they’re back this year.
“My kids are young – four and six now - so missing a year of swimming lessons, it’s a life skill that every kid needs to learn, so when they’re this young it has a huge impact, for sure,” she said. “This year we’re making up for it because we put them in swimming lessons for the whole month.”
The Vogels were among many families who headed to the pool the first day the restrictions were lifted in celebration of Canada Day.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “They got to swim with their friends, finally. We didn’t have to stay in our little family cohort. We’ll be using the pool a lot more this summer, for sure.”