Rochester pools closed due to fights, disregard for pool rules

Other swimming areas in Minnesota are struggling to hire lifeguards.
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Rochester is closing its city-run pools so officials can address "safety concerns" that have come up amid the heatwave. 

"Unsafe activities" such as fights, pushing, children being left unattended, lack of attention to the lifeguards and "general disregard for pool rules," has forced the city to temporarily close the Soldiers Field Pool on June 9, the City of Rochester said in a June 9 news release.

It will also be delaying the opening of the Silver Lake Pool, which was slated to open Wednesday after initially being delayed due to a pipe repair

“We appreciate the community’s excitement about the aquatic offerings this year. We know that our area pools and beaches provide residents an opportunity to stay cool and enjoy time outside in the water. However, the occurrences of the past few days requires us to temporarily close and take the time needed to address the issues being experienced. Safety of everyone is our top priority," Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said in a statement. 

The city says it and its local swim club partners have tried to address the safety issues at the pool by limiting attendance and using a reservation system. But closing the pool and delaying the reopening of the other will give them time to "develop strategies that allow for planning, staffing and operational procedures of the pools" to ensure everyone is safe. 

A reopening date hasn't been determined. 

Staffing issues have been a major problem this year at pools and beaches in Minnesota due to the lack of lifeguards. 

At Lake Minnetonka Regional Park's swimming pond in Minnetrista, which is run by Three Rivers Park District, only half the beach was open on Saturday, June 5, due to a lack of lifeguards, beachgoers were told. There were lifeguards being trained at the time. 

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Closures due to COVID-19 led to a slowdown in training lifeguards and many of the young adults who serve as lifeguards are leaving and not being replaced, resulting in many lifeguard chairs across the area sitting empty, Axios reports

Three Rivers Park District spokesman Tom Knisely told the publication it is hiring lifeguards in training who will get certified as part of their employment. 

There were also fewer lifeguards watching over popular swimming areas last summer due to the pandemic. And last year there was a rise in non-boating drownings, with 49 Minnesotans dying in the water, marking the most since 2011, Minnesota DNR data show

As of April 30 this year, the DNR reports six non-boating drownings in Minnesota. Though there have been several water-related incidents and apparent drownings in recent days as people flock to the water to stay cool as Minnesota sees record-high temperatures and days of 90-plus degree weather. 

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