City pool set to open May 29

Published 12:19 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

The first swimmer has yet to plunge into the water at City Pool, but the Mecca of summertime fun in Vicksburg is already a bustling beehive of activity.

Lifeguards are going through orientation. Bathrooms are being repainted and the baby pool has been retiled for the first time in 20 years. The water is sparkling clear and warming up in advance of the pool’s opening on May 29.

“We work through the winter getting this pool ready to go. If someone came on Christmas Eve it would be clean and ready to swim in. It would just be really cold,” City Pool manager Sylvia Gurtowski said. “My brain stays busy on things to do for this pool.”

While the pool doesn’t open to the public for a couple more weeks, Wednesday marks the unofficial start of the summer swim season. At 10 a.m., registration for the popular Learn To Swim program begins at City Pool.

Learn To Swim offers low-cost swim lessons for people of all ages, but is primarily designed for children. Each two-week session costs just $12 per person. In 2016, a total of 467 people registered, and Gurtowski said several people a day have been wandering up to the pool in the offseason inquiring about it.

Registration for the Learn To Swim program will run this week only, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, registration will be open from 10 a.m. to noon.

Classes fill up on a first-come, first-serve basis and are based on age. Children are the bulk of the students, and Gurtowski urged parents with young children to register early. Classes for preschool-age children are held in only one evening time slot.

The sessions will run from June 5-16, June 26-July 8, July 17-28, and the times of each class vary by age.

“If they have young children that need beginner swim lessons and preschoolers, they need to get there early. Those classes fill up early. The preschool classes will more than likely be filled up by the time we close Wednesday,” Gurtowski said. “Preschool classes are only offered in the evening. That’s to make sure mom and dad can get there after work, because at least one parent has to be there with them.”

Classes for older and more advanced students won’t fill up quite as fast, Gurtowski said, but a steady stream of people sign up throughout the week. If there are any spots available by the end of the registration period at noon Saturday, registration will continue until the end of the day.

Payment must be made at registration, and parents can only sign their children up for one class at a time. The latter rule, Gurtowski said, is to prevent a backup if children need to repeat a level of instruction.

The Learn To Swim program has six levels of instruction, from beginner to advanced. By the time they reach Level 3 most students should have the ability to swim on their own to save their life, but Gurtowski said everyone should continue with the program all the way through Level 6 to get the maximum benefit from it.

“I want to encourage students to continue with the lessons. Go through Level 4, 5 and 6 because there’s always more to learn,” Gurtowski said. “If they finish Level 2 they can get themselves out of the water but they can’t swim to enjoy it. We’ll have full classes up to Level 3 and then sometimes we won’t even have Level 4 classes because they think that’s good enough. Kids need to continue these classes.”

Gurtowski’s pleas are not out of a desire to get rich giving swim lessons, she said. Whatever profit is made off the Learn To Swim program is usually “enough to pay for the chemicals” for the pool.

The program is much more personal for Gurtowski. She grew up in Vicksburg, and as City Pool’s manager has made it a priority to continue the program as a public service.

“We keep the prices low because we want everybody to have a chance to learn to swim,” she said. “That’s what keeps me at City Pool. I very much believe in the swim program. It’s an honor to carry it on from Betty Jo Phiffer. She did this before me, and I think it’s been going on before her. Low-cost lessons have been going on a long time. I don’t know of anyone else that does swim lessons like we do swim lessons.”

Once Learn To Swim registration is finished this week, the actual pool opening will follow quickly behind.

City Pool opens to the public on May 29 and will be open nearly every day until school starts in August. The pool will be closed to the public June 2-4 and July 8 for swim meets hosted by the Vicksburg Swim Association.

Public recreational swim times are from 1 to 5 p.m., with family swim from 6 to 8 p.m. on days when no lessons are given.

When lessons are in session, family swim begins at 6:45 p.m.

The pool is also open to lap swimmers from 6 to 8:45 a.m., and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. On days when lessons are given, the second lap swim period is from noon to 1 p.m.

Daily admission to City Pool is $4 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under.

Among the rules of the facility is a requirement that only swimsuits are allowed in the pool, arm floaties are only allowed in the baby pool, and general rules of decorum must be followed.

“Swimsuits have to be worn at all times. Nylon shorts over a swimsuit bottoms is permissible, but a swimsuit has to be worn,” Gurtowski said. “City Pool is a family-friendly pool, so we frown on cursing and poor behavior. And we do enforce our rules.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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