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Summer outlook for neighborhood pools is still up in the air due to COVID-19 restrictions

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Posted at 6:58 AM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 09:15:24-04

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First it was Water World. On May 19, the popular water park in Federal Heights announced it wouldn't open for the summer season — a first in the park's 40-year history.

"We just really feel we had all of our questions answered," said Water World spokesperson Joann Cortez. "Obviously, it was the safety and well-being of our guests."

The verdict is still out for many neighborhood pools. Most homeowners associations are grappling with the decision to open or not to open once the safer-at-home measure expires in Colorado on May 25.

Chris Cote is the secretary of the Castle Oaks Estates homeowners association (HOA), which runs two pools in the Terrain neighborhood in Castle Rock.

"Under the safer-at-home guidelines that we’re currently under, there’s pretty clear guidance that we shouldn’t open up," Cote said. "In the absence of any clear guidance for going into the next chapter, we’re just going to err on the side of caution until those guidelines come out."

Cote says if pools do open, social distancing measures will be strictly enforced. Pool chairs would likely be removed and pool capacity would be significantly reduced. There would be a major increase in sanitation efforts as well, per Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Cote says the potential opening of the pools could bring up some liability issues even with strict guidelines in place.

"We bare some responsibility for taking the necessary precautions to make sure people are safe," Cote said. "Enforcing that and making it practical is a whole other thing."

Terrain resident Amber Karas said she understands the extra precautions that may be taken. She said she just hopes the HOA will get creative, even in a worst case scenerio.

"Maybe we can stagger families where two families sign up at once or one family comes and signs up," Karas suggested. "In those early morning hours if the pool opens at 6 in the morning, maybe a couple individual swimmers could do laps."

There is even a Change.org petition asking Gov. Jared Polis to open up all pools to lap swimmers as long as it's done safely and meets CDC guidelines.

Green Valley Ranch resident Amanda Vert said she wants to know about HOA fees if her pool closes.

"I think we should all be refunded if it doesn't open at all," she said. "We pay for it every month as part of our dues. For it not to open and it sitting there costing money to run it with the pumps on, the heaters on, the lights on — I think that’s just wrong."

Cote says, depending on your HOA, if you do end up getting a refund it likely won't come in a lump sum. He knows that for a fact when it comes to the Castle Oaks Estates HOA.

"You'll get that refund in the form of a budget line item that comes in under what we expected," he said.

It's people's safety that is driving all of this. According to the CDC, "there is no evidence it (COVID-19) can spread through water used in pools hot tubs or water playgrounds."

Physician Erik Natkin agrees but says there is certainly more to it when it comes to proper safety.

"The concern would be everything else, like not maintaining your social distancing of six feet, not wearing a mask when you’re talking and splashing around in the pool," Natkin said. "You’re potentially spreading the virus out a great distance. Then, you have all the surfaces, like door knobs and water faucets."

In a perfect world, we would all be soaking up the sun poolside. But one thing is for sure: If any pools open, it certainly won't be a free-for-all.

"We’re going run it through three filters," said Cote. "The filters are: Is it permissible by the state or county? Is it a potential liability that’s really too much to take on? Is it practical?"

All HOAs are different. If you have questions about the status of your neighborhood pool, check online or reach out to your HOA directly.