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High temperatures pack Watertown municipal pools

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WATERTOWN — Julia A. Moffatt and her three young children trekked their way in the heat from their Parker Street home across the city Monday to the municipal pool at North Elementary School.

Normally, they would have gone a few blocks away to the Thompson Park pool. But the deteriorating, 90-year-old pool remains closed this summer because of budget constraints and the high costs to replace it.

“It was kind of a bummer,” she said, while her children, Izabella, 3, Abigail, 4, and GraciLynn, 7, cooled off in the shallow side of the pool on East Hoard Street.

At that moment, they were joined by at least 85 other people frolicking, splashing and swimming in the William J. Flynn Municipal Swimming Pool at the school on the city’s north side.

A couple of miles away, the Stephen D. Alteri Municipal Swimming Pool at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds peaked with as many as 150 swimmers Monday, city officials said. And it was the first official day the pools were open. The maximum allowed, at any given moment, is 200 in each pool.

Like Ms. Moffatt, some of the crowd also might have headed to the Thompson Park pool during previous summers.

But the majority was there because of the unseasonably high temperatures hitting close to 90 degrees Monday, said supervising lifeguard Brandon A. Frary, who is lifeguarding for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department summer pool program for a fourth year.

“It’s busier than usual for the first day,” he said.

Kristyn M. Chiappone, the supervising lifeguard at the fairgrounds pool, described the same situation there.

“It’s not too crazy,” she said.

By 4 p.m., about 200 people had visited each of the pools. The summer pool program runs for six weeks.

With a full contingent of lifeguards available and the August-like temperatures, the Parks Department decided to open for business on Saturday instead.

And both pools had good crowds over the weekend, too, program manager Celia E. Cook said.

“We had a soft opening,” she said about getting started a little early.

Carol A. Cean, a longtime user of the pool program, said she heard that the Thompson Park pool was not reopening this summer, so she knew to head to the North Elementary School to go for a dip. She, too, said she was sorry about the news.

In 2012, the council held off spending $650,000 to replace the park pool. However, the city spent $115,400 each to upgrade the other two pools during the past year.

Under the 2014-15 budget, the Parks Department also shuttered three of the city’s playgrounds this summer, saving $31,633 in temporary summer hirings for lifeguards and playground counselors.

Although the Thompson Park pool will not be used any more, the historic city park could become the home of a spray park. The Watertown Noon Rotary has promised to contribute $50,000 toward creating a splash park there, possibly within the next year. The City Council has supported the plan informally. No cost estimates have been put together yet on the project.

In the meantime, Ms. Cean and 18-year-old daughter Shauna Chapman plan to spend a lot of time at the North Elementary pool this summer.

“We usually come at noon and stay until 7 p.m.,” she said.

IF YOU WANT TO GO SWIMMING

Where: William J. Flynn Pool at North Elementary School, East Hoard Street, and the Stephen D. Alteri Pool at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The fairgrounds pool will remain open until Labor Day weekend. The elementary school pool will stay open as long as there are lifeguards available.

Admission: Free.

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