The Summer Heat Has Been Brutal, but at Least You Can Swim for Free in These City Pools

Dottie Jordan Pool in East Austin (photo by John Anderson)

It’s super hot today, just like it was super hot yesterday, and it’s going to be super hot for the next week. After that, we may get some relief from the super heat – temperatures are projected to dip below 100 degrees for the first time in over 40 days.

By “dip below” we mean highs are forecasted in the upper 90s, so still very hot. But the city of Austin is stepping in to provide some relief: As of Aug. 9, the city began waiving all fees at public pools through Sept. 30. Note: The fee waive does not apply to Barton Springs Pool, the most beloved – and coldest – of Austin pools. Barton Springs is a tourist attraction, a city spokesperson told the Chronicle, it already offers free hours anyway (those are 5 to 8 a.m. and 9 to 10 p.m. by the way, so, not exactly during peak heat periods), and the focus of the waiver program is to help people whose most convenient access to a cold body of water is their neighborhood pool. “Our focus is to ensure our local community members have access to the pools if needed,” the spokesperson said.

But Deep Eddy will be free, along with the 33 other pools the city operates (seven regional pools, three community pools, and 22 neighborhood pools). Daily admission fees range from $2-$5 for Austin residents, so if you hit a new pool every day you could squeeze in around $165 of swimming, all on the city’s dime. Not too bad.

Last week, the city announced that six of the city’s seasonal pools would remain open until Oct. 1, to provide another way for Austinities to escape the miserable heat (not to be too much of a bummer, but during the record-setting 2011 heatwave, the last 100 degree day was on Sept. 29, which is 51 days from today). The participating pools are: Garrison Pool, Govalle Pool, Mabel Davis Pool, Northwest Pool, Shipe Pool, and Walnut Creek Pool.

The pool hour extensions would not be possible if the city’s pool (sorry) of lifeguards was not fully staffed. Last summer, the city struggled to even keep all pools open and operable during the summer due to the lifeguard shortage; but by the beginning of this summer, the Parks and Recreation Department was able to hire 1,000 lifeguards, which has allowed pools to remain open all summer. In July, PARD credited the surge in lifeguard applications to a streamlined application process for lifeguards, City Council’s vote last budget cycle to raise the minimum wage for all city workers to $20/hour, and a concerted recruitment effort.

* Editor’s note Thursday, Aug. 10, 3:05pm: This story has been updated to include a response from the City of Austin.

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