On a hot, sunny afternoon, Shipe Pool is full of kids, families, and neighbors with smiling faces, enjoying the chance to splash around in the cool waters of our beloved neighborhood pool! After three years when our neighborhood pool was closed with damage and under construction (and then a limited opening last year under Covid restrictions), neighbors are delighted that Shipe Pool is open again this summer season!
Next to the appreciation for the pool, many swimmers are disappointed in the limited schedule for public swim days and times. The pool is open to the public on three weekdays (Mon, Tue, and Thu) 9am-4pm which conflicts with the work schedule of many people in 9-5 type jobs. On those days Shipe is open in the late afternoons/evenings only for swim lessons and swim team practices. It’s also open to the general public on Saturdays noon-7pm, but some neighbors feel that the current schedule has a bias against adults who work traditional hours.
Although we don’t have all the answers to these concerns, we do have some context for the situation with pools this summer. Most Austin neighborhood pools are still not open due to a severe shortage of lifeguards and because of widespread damage to pipes and pumps in the aquatics systems that happened in February’s severe winter storm. The Aquatics Department designed a gradual re-opening of pools, starting first with the year-round pools like Big Stacy, Bartholomew, and Deep Eddy since that is where most of the lifeguard training takes place. The next priority was Shipe and Govalle pools because we were without a pool for three years.
In the choices made around pool reopening, Austin Aquatics leadership focused on equity between neighborhoods across the city. As much as possible, the city has made sure that each region of the city has equal access to neighborhood swimming pools. In a city where the history of our common resources has benefited the affluent, largely white neighborhoods, centering equity in decisions about the allocation of aquatics resources is an important goal. There remain areas of town that have no access to public swimming pools.
As more lifeguards are brought online, more pools will be opened across the community. Austin Aquatics leadership has shared that once other pools are open, it is possible that the schedule at Shipe Pool could be increased to include more days and/or hours. In addition, Aquatics may consider moving swim lessons and team practices to other pools so the public swim hours at Shipe can be expanded to include after-work hours.
We will hope for more pool access for all people across the city as the summer unfolds. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the beautiful pool we have at Shipe Park for as much time as it is available. For folks eager for a dip when Shipe Pool is not available, you can look into other public pools on the city’s website here: www.austintexas.gov/page/pools-splash-pads
Happy Summertime from the Friends of Shipe Park!
Submitted by Adam Wilson and Jill Nokes