During the first few months of this unprecedented pandemic, social distancing caused most of us to greatly miss spending time with family and friends, attending sports or social events, dining in a restaurant, working out at the gym, traveling for vacations, and even our familiar work environment. Thankfully, many local parks, bike paths, and nature trails provided people with a resource for recreation and harbinger of hope, courtesy of the Miami County Park District.
Then at the end of May, restrictions loosened, businesses and activities resumed with social distancing rules, and some individuals had the false sense that everything would soon return to normal. Before long, it became apparent that business-as-usual was really business-as-best-as-possible. These last few months haven’t even vaguely resembled our nation’s pre-COVID-19 lifestyle.
When it comes to entertainment or recreational events, the words, “Canceled” or “Postponed” became commonplace. Citizens’ health safety was the primary concern. Yet, besides physical health, there are also mental health and socialization issues to consider, since experts reported a dramatic rise in individuals experiencing depression or loneliness from isolation.
That’s why, probably many of us in unprecedented pandemic land, are grateful for anything that is part of the normal we once knew. Ken Siler, who is the director of the Troy Recreation Department cites this as one reason the Troy Aquatic Park opened this past summer. The swimming pool provided, “… (a) sense of normalcy and an option for people here in Troy … (when) we’ve seen a lot of the special events in communities canceled,” Siler said during a recent phone interview.
The Troy Aquatic Park, better known as TAP, welcomed pool goers, despite the challenge of implementing mandated restrictions and with a drastically reduced patron capacity. The well-devised plan was effective in keeping pool attendees safe, but it required additional work by staff. “(We) had to increase our staffing for cleaning and social distance monitoring,” said Siler.
“The Mayor (Robin Oda) and the Troy Recreation Board [Members: Board president Martin Hobart, Doug Jackson, Ashley Reed, Eric Herman, and Thomas Dunn) were really behind wanting to have an opportunity for our citizens to have something to do and they really feel like this is a big part of the community,” Siler said in a past interview with WHIO TV 7.
These municipal servants prevented pool lovers from suffering one more disappointing closure, despite the possible negative financial impact. “I think the board and mayor understood going into the season we were likely going to have a loss for this particular summer,” said Siler. “In any other given year our goal is to target break-even point.”
After all, in the best of economic times, community pools face financial challenges. But these were the worst of times, and many area swimming pools closed this summer for a multitude of reasons. Water enthusiasts of all ages were left lamenting one more summer activity canceled. One more sense of normalcy ripped away.
That didn’t happen in Troy though. Despite the difficult conditions the dedicated staff encountered, folks from all over found enjoyment at TAP this summer. However, the popular pool probably lost money this season. “I anticipate that we will likely have an operating loss for 2020,” Siler said. (But) “More importantly, we provided an amenity to the community that was greatly needed during a very challenging summer.”
Success can’t always be measured in monetary terms. For instance, just imagine the sheer delight on the face of a toddler joyfully splashing in the pool’s aquamarine water or envision the contentment of a family cooling themselves on a scorching day.
Through the years, Carrie Slater, assistant director of recreation, has been “instrumental in recruiting, hiring, training … and retaining the [TAP] staff” said Siler. Kudos to Slater, who normally oversees the pool’s operation.
Special thanks to the dedicated young guards, this year in Slater’s absence, under the direction of Alli Schiffer, recreation program coordinator. Schiffer “stepped up and really helped outv … with the new challenges we faced,” said Siler. Schiffer was assisted by TAP’s other seasoned management personnel, most who are educators headed back to their classrooms to face a new challenge.
So, in the days ahead if you read about a budgetary loss for the Troy Aquatic Park, please consider the other side of the balance sheet. Remember the thousands of folks of all ages, who enjoyed the normalcy of summer at the pool. The cost of this memory was truly priceless.