May 21, 2020 – Prince William County, Virginia – Prince William County-owned outdoor pools and waterparks will not open during the 2020 summer season due to health and operational concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We came to the conclusion it is not feasible without placing people at risk and safety is our top priority,”says Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (DPRT) Director Seth Hendler-Voss. “We understand how disappointing this must be for the thousands of visitors who depend on us for summer memories and relief from the heat. We regret we could not find a way forward.”
Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism spokesperson Brent Heavner explains that the biggest barrier to opening the pools for the upcoming season is the inability to train and prepare seasonal staff in time to operate during the summer of 2020 due to ongoing social distancing guidance. During a regular summer season, DPRT normally hires 600-800 seasonal staff and is the largest seasonal employer of youth in Prince William County.
“The County’s pools and waterparks rely on a large seasonal staff including lifeguards, park attendants, cooks, concessionaires, and other team members,” says Heavner. “Much of the safety training these positions require, especially our lifeguards, requires close contact. That training cannot begin until social distancing guidance guidelines are lifted, as anticipated in Phase III of the Commonwealth’s Forward Virginia Blueprint.”
With Phase I reopening for Northern Virginia anticipated to begin at the end of May, and social distancing guidelines anticipated to remain through Phase II, the training required for many seasonal pool positions would not likely be able to begin until mid-July.
“By the time we would be able to complete staff training and ready our outdoor aquatic facilities for opening, we would be very late into the pool season when we would usually be preparing to close several of those facilities down for the summer,” says Heavner.
DPRT is exploring the feasibility opening the indoor pools within its two recreation centers once doing so is safe and practical based on the Commonwealth’s Forward Virginia Blueprint.
DPRT operates two outdoor waterparks, four outdoor community pools, and two recreation centers with indoor pools. Historically, the pools and waterparks operated by the Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism have regularly hosted over 200,000 patron visits annually.