More than 1,500 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling on Nassau County and the Towns of Hempstead and North Hempstead to host swim meets this summer at their outdoor pools.
New Hyde Park resident Duckie McClellan created the petition, titled “Let Them Swim! In the Nassau Municipal Swim Conference Summer 2021,” last week in response to the news that the municipalities would operate their public pools with the same limited scheduling and capacity as last summer.
The Nassau Municipal Swim Conference, the Levittown Swimming Association and other local municipal and village teams have been an integral part of children’s lives for over 50 years, McClellan said.
Bridget Egan Diano, a Wantagh resident, shared the petition in the “Wantagh Neighbors” Facebook group and encouraged her fellow residents to sign it if they’d like to see their children use the Wantagh Park Pool, which is run by Nassau County, and Forest City Pool, a Town of Hempstead facility, as summer swim team members.
“My son has participated in the swim teams at both Wantagh Park and Forest City since he was 8, and it got him started in the sport,” Egan Diano said. “He’s now a junior at Wantagh High School, holds two all-time school records and is pursuing swimming at the college level.”
She explained that her son wouldn’t have gotten this far without his experience with local swim teams.
“Last year, the swimming community was very disappointed that the league was cancelled, but due to the uncertainty at the time, the decision made sense,” McClellan wrote in the petition. But she added that it is unrealistic to maintain those restrictions when so much has improved since last year, and more and more residents are being vaccinated.
According to New York state’s Reopening New York Sports and Recreation Guidelines, swimming is considered a moderate-risk sport. As of Feb. 1, individual or distanced group training activities, organized no- or low-contact group training, and competitive team practices, games, meets, matches and tournaments are allowed.
But as of now, the Town of Hempstead is not issuing pool permits that swim teams typically need to hold practices and meets, because the state has not yet provided guidance on what will be allowed this summer, according to a statement from the town. “We are following suit with all of the other municipalities on Long Island,” the statement read.
“Over the course of the pandemic, the Town of Hempstead has painstakingly worked to safely operate government and continue as many recreational activities as possible while complying with state guidance,” town Spokesman Greg Blower said. “Pools and most other programs must conform with all of the rules set forth by New York State. At the current time, the town has not canceled any swimming-related activities, and continues limited operations under state decrees. Should the state regulations change, the town will review the guidance and attempt to restore as many athletic programs as possible to pre-Covid levels.”
“The decision is especially surprising since area public high schools were able to have a successful boys season and the girls are currently practicing and competing,” McClellan wrote in the petition. “In addition, the Nassau County Aquatic Center, an indoor facility run by the Nassau County, has hosted both the girls and boys [Nassau Suffolk Catholic High School Athletic Association] championship swim meets, Section 8 boys championship meet, master swim team practices, lifeguard certifications, swim clinics and open swims.”
Egan Diano argued that the same protocols that varsity school swim teams implemented at indoor pools could be used over the summer, such as having participants swim separately and submit their times.
“There are ways around this if people are concerned about crowding in the pool,” she said. “Not to mention that the summer leagues typically only hold the meets on Saturday mornings, before the pool opens. So, the only people there are the swim team members and parents. There’s no mixing with the regular patrons.”
All practices and competitions for the teams in the Nassau Municipal Swim Conference are outdoors, McClellan added.
“Why can’t the same safety measures that were implemented at the Aquatic Center and at practice pools for high school teams this past spring also be implemented at the municipal pools this summer so our kids can swim?” she asked. “This decision is a great disservice to the many kids who look forward to swimming on these teams every summer.”
Team participation not only improves swimmers’ skills, McClellan said, but also provides them with camaraderie as well as lessons about teamwork, respect and how to win and lose gracefully.
“These municipal swim teams really bring the community together,” she added, “and are an integral part in the training of our future swimmers.”