By Contributor Brenten Gilbert

Occoquan Swimming (OCCS), a mid-sized, non-profit USA Swimming club based out of Manassas, VA, has laid out a plan to safely get swimmers back in the water during Phase 1 of the Forward Virginia road to re-opening. Northern Virginia entered Phase 1 on Friday, May 29th and, thanks to a partnership with a community pool, OCCS staff was able to oversee a lap swimming program which began operating at 6:00am the same day.

OCCS presented a proposal to the Pleasant Valley Recreation Association (PVRA), in nearby Chantilly, to offer lap swimming to interested participants willing to adhere to the safety guidelines detailed in a thorough policy manual, also prepared by the club. The guidelines follow recommendations and protocols provided by USA Swimming, the CDC, as well as state and local restrictions and include such measures as maintaining social distance, wearing a face covering in certain areas, temperature checks, signing a waiver, and other health assessments.

The pool is limited to one swimmer in each of the six lanes, but throughout the course of the day, can accommodate up to 54 swimmers for one hour of swimming at a time with 20 minutes between each session designated for transition and sanitation. Entrance to the pool requires swimmers to proceed through three “zones” for health screening, an explanation of policies, and finally, the pool area in a process described in an orientation video. Spectators are not allowed on the pool deck, but coaches are available to assist swimmers looking for a training set.  

These protocols were developed by OCCS staff and designed to allow lap swimming at the club’s home pool in Manassas, but local regulations prevented the indoor facility from operating for the past few months. Determined, OCCS shifted their focus to outdoor pools, where the procedures could be put to immediate use. And, although the location in Chantilly isn’t the most convenient for Occoquan swimmers, who primarily reside in western Prince William County, it’s accessible to the team and opens up options for the larger swimming community. 

“We have worked with Pleasant Valley Recreation Association in the past,” explains OCCS General Manager Aaron Dean, “and they were willing to help us get things up and running sooner than any other pool in the area.” With spots filling up fast – 90% capacity within the first two days – the option is well received. Participants have been coming from OCCS and other USA Swimming clubs in the area, college programs on summer break, and US Masters programs alike, bringing the swim community together.

Swimmers do have to reserve their spot ahead of time and pay $11 per hour to cover the costs of lane rental, staffing, and sanitation requirements, but for most, it’s a small price to pay to get back into the water. The program is currently scheduled to be a two-week trial, but discussions are already underway to extend hours of operations and other pools to accommodate the high demand.  “This doesn’t replace swim practices,” says Dean, “but [it] is an early opportunity to swim that we felt needed to happen in our pursuits [toward] offering swim practices.”  For more information or to sign up if you are in the area, visit: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c094da9a62ea3fa7-pleasant.

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