Fate of summer camps and pools uncertain during pandemic

Posted at 7:10 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 22:01:16-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- In 1949, the Chickahominy Aquatic Association first opened to families in Henrico County.

Three pools sit tucked back in the Chamberlayne neighborhood sandwiched between towering trees and single-family homes.

“There are a lot of memories here. We have some members that have been here 30 plus years,” said association board member Devon Slough.

Slough’s daughter was four-years-old when they first joined the association. That was 13 years ago.

“For me it’s very emotional because I have a lot of ties to the pool,” she explained. “I have a lot family memories.”

However, the future of this 71-year-old pool remains murky as the state slowly reopens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are very uncertain because they’re no clear guidance instructions from anyone about which phase the pool openings will be in,” Slough explained.

Phase One of Governor Ralph Northam’s plan to reopen the state’s economy kept recreational pools closed. Overnight summer camps were also ordered to remain closed.

The YMCA of Greater Richmond has gained a head start on plans to keep youth entertained during the Summer season.

Since the lockdown began, the non-profit has run Camp Hope to provide childcare to essential workers.

“We are running low numbers: one staff member to every nine youth. When children come in we check their temperatures and they wash their hands,” said Betsy Peters, senior vice president of youth development.

Students are encouraged not to share. Peters said the hardest part is teaching kids how to social distance.

“The positive thing is it’s quicker to build relationships when you have nine students as opposed to 12 or 13,” she explained. “Because you can’t get right beside a child or close to them children are having to figure out some of their own while we give directions.”

YMCA of Greater Richmond will transfer their disciplines learned while operating Camp Hope during the quarantine to run summer day camps at nine locations.

“We are running them at branches that have larger inside facilities and larger outside facilities,” Peters stated.

Five day camps begin on June 1 followed by four camps to start up on July 15. There are still slots available and they will work with families with a financial plan.

When pools and overnight summer camps do reopen they will appear a watered down version of what families are used to.

Slough questioned whether her pool will be allowed to welcome back families at all.

“Obviously we are not in Phase One. We don’t know if we are going to be in Phase Two. We don’t really know how long Phase One will last at this point,” she explained.

Governor Northam has not yet detailed how Phase Two will impact those facilities.

Slough also leads the association’s swim team. Their future is also uncertain with social distancing limitations already in place for other industries like restaurants.

Hundreds of people may be in attendance either swimming or spectating at the typical event. Virtual meets may become the norm in 2020.

Outdoor swimming pools may be open for lap swimming only and must be limited to one person per lane, according to Phase One. However, that restriction would be too costly for a facility like the Chickahominy Aquatic Association.

“Financially speaking there are some pools that are not going to be able to open,” Slough stated. “At the end of the day we also have 200 plus members we don’t want to disappoint.”