A hot start to summer: Attendance up at East Grand Forks pool, steady at Grand Forks pools
The pool opened on June 8, and during the first week of being open, it averaged 300 swimmers a day, according to Reid Huttunen, superintendent for East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation.
GRAND FORKS — The diving board is Noah Miller’s favorite part of the pool.
Ashley Miller, Noah’s mother, said he has gone to the East Grand Forks Public pool every day since it opened.
“I think everybody that works here makes the experience so much better,” Ashley said. “The lifeguards do a really good job at paying attention to what’s going on.”
Noah, who is 9 and has nearly two more months to work on his front flip, will have quite the audience this summer.
On a 90-degree day in late June, the East Grand Forks pool in Sherlock Park was full of kids bobbing up and down and lifeguards scanning the water and twirling their whistles.
Up on the concrete pool deck, parents and grandparents laid back in their chairs. Megan Sandness, there with her daughters Olive and Penelope, listened to a mystery audiobook.
“I usually read or knit,” said Sandness. She and her daughters had come to the pool about five or six times this summer as well.
The pool opened on June 8, and during the first week of being open, it averaged 300 swimmers a day, according to Reid Huttunen, superintendent for East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation. The number is up from last year’s daily average of 286 patrons. Even though the first week recorded the highest temperatures of the year at the time, Huttunen said that is still an accurate indication of how the summer turnout will be.
In Grand Forks’ Elks Pool, about 125 people go to the pool a day, according to Sports and Recreation Manager Lisa Rollefstad. She said that has been consistent with years past.
She said everyday patrons, as well as daycare groups and the summer recreation group Just For Fun, have kept the pool busy so far.
Grand Forks’ other outdoor pool, Riverside, took longer to open its doors. Because of spring flooding of the nearby Red River, the pool underwent a longer period of cleaning. Moreover, the pool was due for a repainting. On June 23, after sandblasting, painting and cleaning, Riverside opened for the season.
Though the outdoor pools in Greater Grand Forks are open and busy, employment has been a challenge on both sides of the river.
In Grand Forks, finding lifeguards hasn't been easy.
“We’re better right now than we were last year,” said Rollefstad, “but I still wouldn’t say we’re great.”
She said lifeguards working around other summer job schedules has made it difficult to cover shifts.
To incentivize the positions, hourly wages were increased from $11 to $13, and a bonus was added for those taking weekend shifts.
Because of a higher payroll and increased costs of chemicals and electricity, the cost of summer passes for Grand Forks pools increased this year.
At East Grand Forks, Huttunen said they are “fortunate enough to be in an OK position with the number of lifeguards,” but the pool lacks enough Water Safety Instructor-certified lifeguards to teach group swimming lessons.
“It’s an every-year battle,” said Huttunen. “It’s an extra cost and time commitment for lifeguards to be able to go and get certified. Last year we had multiple staff that wanted to do it and were certified with WSI, so we had a good group.”
East Grand Forks’ summer pass price remained the same.
Hours and rates for the East Grand Forks Pool can be found on the East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation website.
Hours and rates for Elks and Riverside Pools can be found on the Grand Forks Park District website.
This article's author, Dominic Erickson, is a freelance reporter whose work occasionally appears in the Grand Forks Herald.