BROOKINGS – The Hillcrest Aquatic Center, which usually opens after Memorial Day, will be closed for the 2020 summer season due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the City of Brookings announced Friday.
The decision was based largely on the fact that operating the Aquatic Center under COVID-19 related guidelines for sanitizing, social distancing and group size would not be cost-efficient. Also, monitoring such efforts could prove to be a challenge for staff whose traditional focus is on water safety. With all changes that would be necessary, an outcome that would provide the Aquatic Center’s customarily enjoyable experience could not be reached. Additionally, it was not assured risk could be mitigated to the extent acceptable to staff.
Brookings’ decision is consistent with many other communities in the state and across the country.
“The safety and health of Brookings residents is our biggest concern," Brookings Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Director Dusty Rodiek said. "The Aquatic Center brings quality of life to our residents and is a valuable part of our community’s summer experience, which is why this was a very tough decision to make. Our staff worked with the South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association’s Aquatics Task Force to find ways to open the pool, but ultimately it comes down to safety and responsibility. It’s disappointing, but it’s the right decision; we have a responsibility to keep residents safe and there just wasn’t a good way to ensure that and provide the same quality experience the public is used to.”
Due to the pool’s closure, City staff are planning new free programming options for the summer that meet CDC guidelines. Residents will soon see things like sprinklers in the park, a sidewalk chalk art show, Free-Range Kids, and other fun activities that allow for social distancing.
“We will continue to work on ways to be inventive and provide summer fun and connectivity to our residents in place of pool operations. We look forward to a time when we can all get together again, but for now we will continue to move through this by offering recreational alternatives," Rodiek said.