THE GREAT OUTDOORS The Charlestown swimming pool was revamped in 2018.
The East Mayo swimming pool has had to adapt to Covid-19 challenges
DESPITE Covid-19 restrictions obstructing some of their plans, Charlestown swimming pool enjoyed a successful summer season, according to committee member Maureen McEntire.
The outdoor heated pool — which is situated in Lowpark on the Swinford Road in Charlestown – was newly-renovated in 2018 to mark its 50th anniversary.
And it re-opened to the public after the Coronavirus lockdown on July 16 last.
“For the last few years, we typically would have opened in the first weekend in June to do swimming lessons for the school… We didn’t get to do swimming lessons for the school or our summer camp [this summer], but considering everything we were able to get it open and make it work,” Maureen – who is the current Charlestown swimming pool committee Secretary and PRO – told The Mayo News recently.
The all-female committee have taken every care to ensure that the pool was able to open safely during the height of summer. The facility, which always has two lifeguards on duty, now operates a one-way system where patrons come togged out for their swim before exiting via the dressing rooms, which are regularly sanitised.
“All our lifeguards did a three-and-a-half-hour webinar through Skillnet, as did most of our committee,” Maureen explained.
“And because we’re outdoor, that helped us. We have these hotel porter trolleys [where people leave their bags] and while they are swimming one of the guards just move the bags up to the changing areas. We just planned it properly and everyone was very good. There were no issues really.”
Since re-opening, the pool’s booking system moved fully online, allowing swimmers to book 50-minute slots for groups or individuals. Prices for children’s swims have also been reduced from €4 to €3 per swim.
Swimming lessons have also resumed with reduced numbers, with families of students being separated accordingly.
“On a busy day last year, you could’ve had 60 or 70 people at one time,” explained Maureen. “The regulations said we could have 32 in the pool but for safety we brought that down to 20; ten in the deep end and ten in the shallow end. We could always [increase] that if there was ever a booking issue.
“[For lessons] we would’ve had 12 in the shallow end and then reduced it down to four for Level 1s and six in the deep end. For lane swimming it was a maximum of 15 in the pool.”
While the summer season is almost drawing to close, Maureen says the 22-metre pool has proved a popular amenity for tourists and local groups.
“I think we had more visitors that were staycationing, so we had a lot more people that we wouldn’t have heard from before.
“A lot of our football team came in after games because they couldn’t have that sense of camaraderie in their dressing rooms. We also had the Swinford Triathlon group coming to train for the past few weeks because they haven’t been able to get out into the lakes.”
Nine part-time staff and a CE Scheme worker are employed at the pool over the course of the three-month season, which normally runs from the beginning of June until schools return at the end of August. The pool requires heating, chlorination, filtration and other general maintenance, with their electricity bill coming in at a cost of roughly €12,000.
The swimming pool committee are currently planning to spend their Sports Capital Grant on solar panels to reduce these electricity costs.
While the pool receives €7,500 from Mayo County Council, plans for a fundraiser were put on hold due to the tragic death of Garda Colm Horkan which plunged Charlestown into grief earlier in the summer.
“We usually have a bingo night fundraiser and that would take in some money, but we didn’t get to do that this year,” explained Maureen.
“We had a meeting the night that Colm Horkan died. My husband told me what had happened… we felt like ‘We can’t do this’. Everyone continued to work in the background, and we got it ready for July 16.
“The Horkans have always been a phenomenal supporter of the pool,” she added.
“Colm would always have been swimming up until last year, he always would’ve supported it. That’s one of the reasons we were so happy that we were able to keep things going in Charlestown and bring some bit of positivity back.”