Durham County

When Durham schools let out, it’s splash time — Baumgartner Vaughan

Shirley Pulido, 10, and Kelyn Contreras, 2, splash in the water at Hillside Pool on July 14, 2016 in Durham.
Shirley Pulido, 10, and Kelyn Contreras, 2, splash in the water at Hillside Pool on July 14, 2016 in Durham. The Herald-Sun file photo

When traditional calendar Durham Public Schools let out for the summer on Friday, June 9, the pools will be open, too. And this summer, they’ll be free for youth up to age 18. It’s time to get your splash on. This is a new fee-waiving from the City of Durham for use of recreation centers and pools.

It’s a good move from the city at a time most needed. When it’s time for budget cuts, funding for parks, arts and cultural activities are often first to get chopped. Parks and recreation isn’t at the top of most municipal funding priorities. And that’s understandable, as public safety, infrastructure and such are basic needs. But this phrase “quality of life” is for real. It’s not just going to the pool.

If you’ll let me get my Durham Holiday Parade soapbox out again, my push for the return of the parade was because it was something free to go to that brought everyone together. That’s what free access to city pools can do for youth, too. Oh yes it’s great for health, what with the exercise and all. Sunblock needs to be spread, of course. But the pool is about having fun. Kids are faced with a lot in their daily lives at home and at school. Having fun at the pool lets them just be. Play. Swim. Socialize. Make summer memories.

It would be great if swimming lessons were publicly funded, so everyone’s safety can be better ensured, but like I said, funding priorities often go elsewhere. A lot of neighborhoods have pools, but that keeps pool-goers just to residents and their limited guests. That’s not a pool for everyone, that’s a pool for convenience. My neighborhood has a pool, too, and it’s great because it’s super convenient. But I also go to public pools because they’re bigger, have lifeguards, you can meet up with people there and because pools are fun. Granted, as a parent of a kid in elementary school, I’m in prime pool parenting time.

So this move by the City of Durham to make city pools free for kids is a big deal. Summer reading is important. Summer programs are important. Summer fun is important, too. Now Bull City parents don’t need to budget for the cost of their kids going to the pool. There are also limited hours that are free admission to adult city residents, too.

Pool visitors can register online at DPRPlayMore.org or at recreation centers. Durham Parks and Recreation also has its Rock the Park summer series of free concerts and movies in city parks, and all you have to do for that is show up.

Summer is a time when we all slow down a bit, and it’s a nice time to look around and see what your community offers. The pool is just one place to check out, and cool off.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan