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Springfield public pool ready for swimmers looking to beat the heat

Forest Park Pool in Springfield, Massachusetts.
City of Springfield
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Forest Park Pool in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Lifeguards are in short supply in many places, but that's not the case in Springfield, Massachusetts. The city's aquatics director said the pool at Forest Park is fully-staffed for the forecasted run of hot days ahead.

The American Lifeguard Association said fewer people took training courses to do the job over the last few years because of the pandemic.

Joe Federico oversees swimming programs for Springfield. He said he offered lifeguard classes at a lower price, boosted pay and recruited for the job more in the city's public schools. However, he said it still goes back to the coronavirus.

"I think the lack of restrictions with COVID and everything kind of easing up, I think that helps as well," Federico said. "For a couple years there, we really struggled to find the help. I think people were just afraid."

Another western Massachusetts community, Easthampton, has not been as lucky. The city is not operating the outdoor pool at Nonotuck Park because the parks and recreation department couldn't find enough lifeguards

"It is with great sadness we have to announce that we couldn't get enough lifeguards to open our pool this year," a statement on the Easthampton Parks and Recreation Facebook page reads. "Despite many efforts we were affected by the nationwide lifeguard shortage as many other areas were."

As far as the projected hot weather goes, Federico said the pool at Forest Park can accommodate up to 200 swimmers at any one time. He said if demand exceeds capacity, visitors will be limited to a half-an-hour in the pool.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation announced Wednesday it will have extended hours at some of its pools and splash pads around the state through Thursday, to help residents beat the heat.

“The state’s many deep water and wading pools, as well as its spray decks are very popular destinations for children and their families as they seek outdoor recreation and receive a respite from the summer heat,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a statement. “During this ongoing heat wave, we ask everyone to take appropriate safety measures in staying cool for their own wellbeing, like visiting a Commonwealth pool during these next couple of days.”

The extended hours apply for pools in Agawam and Chicopee as well as a spray deck in Holyoke.

Forecasters said the high temperatures — above 90 degrees — along with humidity will persist through the weekend.

"A lot of this heat that's been building up in the Midwest, that has just started to kind of move our direction, or it has moved our direction now," said Kyle Peterson, of the National Weather Service.

Peterson said the last time the region experienced a five-day long heatwave was June of last year. He said it is really important that people drink lots of fluids, especially water, to avoid heat-related health issues.

"If you can, stay indoors where you have air-conditioning so you're avoiding both the heat and the sun. And then make sure you're not leaving pets or children in the car when you run to the grocery store or anywhere as cars do get hot very quickly."

Peterson said scattered showers and thunderstorms forecasted for Thursday will not diminish the hot and humid conditions. He said some relief is expected early next week with slightly lower temperatures and humidity.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
Kari Njiiri is a senior reporter and longtime host and producer of "Jazz Safari," a musical journey through the jazz world and beyond, broadcast Saturday nights on NEPM Radio. He's also the local host of NPR’s "All Things Considered."
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