Washington County looks to help folks 'Beat the Heat' with new swim pass

NOW: Washington County looks to help folks ’Beat the Heat’ with new swim pass

HARTFORD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- As lifeguard shortages continue to impact pools across the country, Washington County officials are hopeful a new initiative for residents will help folks have some fun in the sun and beat the heat this summer.

"We're able to save summer swimming in Washington County," said County Executive Josh Schoemann. "Really excited for this partnership, for this collaboration, to be able to save summer swimming."

After learning the lifeguard shortages forced pools in Kewaskum and West Bend to close, and threatened facilities in Hartford, Schoemann teamed up with the city of Hartford and Kettle Moraine YMCA to address the issue. The finished product is a summer swim pass for county residents that provides them a discount to swim at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Hartford and the YMCA in West Bend.

"We want to make sure people can enjoy summer and enjoy all the swimming experiences they grew up with as kids," Schoemann said. "We want people to use these facilities. It's what they're here for."

In addition to the facilities mentioned above, the passes will also provide discounted entry to non-lifeguarded facilities including Yahr Park, Sandy Knoll Park and Ackerman's County Grove Park. Passes will be mailed to Washington County residents as a part of the county newsletter. They're also available at the Washington County Courthouse, the county golf course and the Kettle Moraine YMCA.

"It really became a phenomenal opportunity, not only for Washington County, but also for the city of Hartford," said Hartford Mayor Tim Michalak. "We're very interested in making sure that everybody has the opportunity to enjoy summer."

Funding for the project will come from the American Rescue Plan Act and will range between $125,000 to $150,000. That funding will cover operational costs and coupon reimbursement.

The Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center opened in 2016 and has several features for families to enjoy including two water slides, a lazy river, a laps pool and diving boards.

Schoemann says conversations are already underway with the YMCA to address the shortage of lifeguards to hopefully keep the situation experienced this summer from happening again.

"We train lifeguards every six weeks at the YMCA so if there's anyone listening out there, anyone who's 15 and above, we will train you," said Rob Johnson, CEO of the Kettle Moraine YMCA. "We want to get kids into the pipeline because that's what's going to make us be successful."

As for reopening the popular Regner Park swimming pong in West Bend and Kiwanis Park pond in Kewaskum, Schoemann says those conversations are forthcoming.

"There needs to be a conversation about safety of facilities and things of that nature and sustainability and it's a larger community conversation our neighbors need to be a part of as well," Schoemann said. "We look forward to that."

The Washington County swim passes will be good for use throughout the remainder of the summer.

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