Ninety-degree weather is perfect for few things, but Saturday's heat was ideal for swimmers to make their first splash into the sparkling blue waters of the city's outdoor pools.
The swim season kicked off Saturday with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake attending the annual Big Splash event at the Roosevelt Park pool in Hampden.
Several pools had been slated to close because of city budget cuts, but Darryl Sutton, director of the Aquatics Division, said all pools were open. However, they are scheduled to close Aug. 8, two weeks earlier than usual. Sutton said there is the "possibility" that they will remain open longer, but he said it is up to City Hall, adding that it takes work and preparation to keep the pools open.
Despite tight funding, the Department of Recreation and Parks "has money in [its] budget to compensate the Police Department to provide officers at pools to ensure public safety," said Anthony Guglielmi, a Police Department spokesman.
Officers typically work security at each of the city's pools, but the recreation department pays for the overtime it costs to staff security duty, which is not part of regular police shifts.
"It blew my mind when I thought they would close," said Melissa Gregory, who has been working since April cleaning, painting, repairing pipes and performing other maintenance jobs to prepare for opening day.
For Gregory, whose father, Robert Morgan, received an award from the mayor for his 20 years of service at the Roosevelt pool, it is the place where she grew up and where her three kids now spend their summers.
She and her husband, who now runs the pool, said "this is the busiest opening day," with more than 300 swimmers.
By 2 p.m., after the pool had been open for two hours, children were walking, not running, in every direction, dripping a little bit of the pool water behind them. Hot dogs smoked on the grill, and music was blaring from a disc jockey brought in for the event. Those who took a break from the water were sunning themselves on a grassy hillside to dry off.
"I love this pool," said Desiree Olivo, 27. She and her fiance brought his sister, a neighbor and a niece who could be seen bobbing in the water. "I would be devastated if it closed," she said, saying she came last week in her swimsuit, with the kids loaded in the car and the cooler packed, but the pool wasn't open yet.
She said she plans to use the pool several times a week, adding that "the sun just takes the energy out of them."
Ralph Moore, director of the St. Frances Academy on East Chase Street, said he was concerned when the nearby Ambrose Kennedy pool on Ensor Street was on the possible closure list.
He said swimming is one of the most popular activities at the academy's summer camp. When the camp started last week, before the pools opened, he said they used a sprinkler, but "it's not the same. They prefer the pool."
City pools hours are noon to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $1.50.
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