I’ve been asked by some OMS swimmers to explain why and how Mingus Park Pool is still open in Coos Bay this winter during Oregon’s COVID-19 epidemic.
The first part is easy to explain; it’s an outdoor pool. We’ve used Mingus for practice, lap swimming, high school, and age group, since 1969. A tradition of swimming outdoors in all weather was established, and practice continues no matter what the weather, which fits State COVID requirements very well.
Everyone in Coos Bay automatically assumes Mingus is open all year, from the City Council to six and unders. Parents don’t sweat the weather. They watch age group practice from their cars.
Adult swimmers laugh on the way to the water from the locker rooms. We had 33 lap swimmers from 5 AM to noon New Year’s Day this year in a heavy rain. We swim outdoors. So what.
This attitude made it easy to keep Mingus open, even when following the Governor’s COVID restrictions carefully. Masks are required entering and leaving the pool by a side gate. Many swimmers come wearing a swim suit and dress on the deck after working out, wearing the wet suit home.
The attitude was combined with careful planning by the Pool Director, Kathe McNutt, to insure equality. She has a grid for each day, each hour and six lanes. I do not know how she has divided the lanes up, giving an hour a day for so many days to different individuals, other than giving swimmers what they ask for as much as she can.
I, for instance, swim five days a week, but I make sure at least one is on the weekend when there are fewer requests to swim. One woman comes every weekday from Coquille. Most are on a M-W-F or a T-H schedule, but if swimmers want more lap time, they ask. Unused lanes are filled in as they come up. There is a phone list of those who can come at the last moment, and they are called by pool staff.
We also have had a lot of lap swimming time so far. M-F, 5 AM – 3 PM. That’s lanes for 60 people per day. Age group swim team comes in at 3 and goes to 7 PM. More people have been swimming at Mingus since the North Bend Pool closed. Starting Jan. 18, the local community college swim team will start again 8-12, Mon-Sat. Since they pay around $15,000/season, they get first choice. That will go through March. That takes up 24 of those 60 slots. We adjust.
I do have a problem with swim teams allowed two swimmers to a lane or more under COVID restrictions. I’ve seen three age groupers swimming in the same lane at Mingus, starting one at each end and one in the middle. The local community college does the same thing. Why can’t adults go two to a lane, starting at opposite ends of a pool?
We have had empty lanes during colder winter weather. I’ve always said it’s not cold at Mingus unless there is ice on the deck. It hasn’t been cold yet. You will also see all levels of adult swimming in Mingus, from Masters, much younger hot shots, LSD swimmers, and those who never get their hair wet.
The keys, though, have always been the same: first, community support. Coos Bay’s City Manager sits on Mingus Park Pool’s Board. It helps to have those who pay most of the bills know something about aquatics. The City Council of North Bend is ignorant about swimming pools.
Second is fairness. If you want to swim more at Mingus, you will get more pool time if you ask and are patient. The Pool Director will try to please you and give you more time on her list, which is updated daily.
Third, I’ve noticed a pronounced care from the adults at Mingus in keeping distance. We’ve started to wear masks in the locker rooms even while dressing and undressing, six feet or more apart, which we were not so prone to do earlier. We also do the same for social distancing getting in and out of the pool and while swimming. None of us want to screw up swimming at Mingus by being careless.
As a Master Swimmer in Albany, Oregon I wondered where in the world could this Coos Bay be located, certainly not our Coos Bay, Oregon. There are few outdoor pools used year around in Oregon and certainly not one on our weather tested Oregon Coast. But I was pleasantly pleased to read that I was wrong! We camp at Winchester Bay and I’ve used the pools at North Bend and the Highland Pool in Reedsport but didn’t realize there were other options.
Unrelated to this article, I was shocked, as a former lifeguard, that Highland Pool in Reedsport uses their one on duty lifeguard to teach an aerobics class WHILE IN THE WATER! Imagine the recognition and response time while guarding head high in the water. I wrote the pool manager and was told it’s been done this way for years. I then wrote the county with no results. I’ve since written the State of Oregon with no results. My concerns started a couple of years ago and I asked the guard earlier in 2020.
You guys are really lucky! Here in Corvallis, we do have an outdoor pool. But the most you are allowed to swim in it is three times per week 45 minutes each time, or actually more like 40 because the time you take to get your clothes off and your fins on etc. counts. Also no showers at all, it’s changing in your car or driving home wet. Also you have to make the reservation two weeks in advance to get a lane, so it’s run home, and quick make that reservation for two weeks from now so you keep being able to swim at that day and time.
With all of this, I am sure grateful to have any pool to swim in. The staff there is wonderfully kind and helpful. And the cold air is not really a problem, because you feel so good when you get out of the water that who cares!
Beautiful! I’m so happy for the people in Coos Bay and North Bend to have pool access. This is such a success story. Thank you for sharing.
When is open swimming for adults