Two of Montclair’s three pools open, and that’s it for now
By TALIA WIENER
Two of Montclair’s three pools opened for a seven-day-a-week schedule Friday, June 25, but a third remains closed until further notice.
“The decision to not open Essex Pool was made after careful consideration,” Montclair Communications Director Katya Wowk said in an email to Montclair Local.
Mountainside Pool first opened for weekends on May 12, and Nishuane Pool opened for weekends June 12, before both moved to the seven-day schedule June 25.
The township is continuing to require social distancing and instituting capacity limits, though not strictly required to do so under state rules.
A May executive order by Gov. Phil Murphy permitted pools to operate at full capacity without regard for social distancing, but the state Department of Health guidance still advises pools encourage “six feet social distancing among staff and patrons, away from non-household contacts, in and out of the water." It suggests cordoning off areas around lifeguard stands to allow for social distancing between unmasked lifeguards and patrons, staggering the use of shared spaces such as restrooms and locker rooms, managing crowds with visible signs or markings, and posting signs to note six-foot spacing in commonly used areas.
“Given Essex Pool’s smaller deck surface, the required social distancing would allow for an occupancy capacity that is diminished to such an extent that opening the pool would be impractical,” Wowk said.
Additionally, a nationwide chlorine shortage has left Montclair with only enough pool chemicals for two facilities, Wowk said. The shortage, caused by a fire at a chemical plant in Louisiana and a steep increase in backyard pool construction, may affect facilities across the country all summer long, according to the National Recreation and Park Association.
The township is also facing a shortage of certified lifeguards because “certifying agencies were unable to train and certify individuals prior to the relaxation of applicable pandemic-related restrictions,” Wowk said.
If the circumstances change, Wowk said, “we will certainly reconsider the situation.”
No daily resident or guest passes are permitted this summer — all pool attendees must be Montclair residents with purchased swim badges. At the end of each day, the pools undergo a sanitizing COVID-19 protocol, according to the Montclair Recreation and Cultural Affairs website.
The state guidance also encourages unvaccinated people to wear masks at pool facilities — but says they shouldn’t do so in the water, because of the increased risk of drowning. It also notes lifeguards shouldn’t be expected to wear masks or practice social distancing.