Stay cool, Charlottesville

Photo by Eric Kelley, who turned a discounted cattle stock tank into a backyard pool. Photo by Eric Kelley, who turned a discounted cattle stock tank into a backyard pool.

It’s a steamy 88 degrees, on average, in Charlottesville in July, and that’s not factoring in the humidity—making it vital to have spots to cool off outdoors. But as summer approaches and many businesses reopen, swimming options remain few and far between. Here’s our guide to where you can (and can’t) hit the water, and how to do it safely.

Beaches

Virginia Beach opened May 22, with restrictions including no groups of more than 10 people, no tents, no group sports, and “beach ambassadors” on hand to enforce social distancing (non-family members must be six feet apart from one another). Play structures remain closed, and parking garages and surface lots are limited to 50 percent capacity.

Governor Northam allowed the rest of Virgnia’s public beaches to open, with similar restrictions, starting May 29, and most Eastern Shore beaches (along with hotel and rental accommodations) are now open. The town of Cape Charles announced it would reopen its beaches on June 5.

Virginia Beach (seen here pre-pandemic) is open with restrictions. Photo: Ben Schumin

Pools

Under Phase One of Northam’s reopening plan, outdoor pools were allowed to open for lap swimming, with a limit of one swimmer per lane. While Charlottesville Parks & Rec has announced it will keep its public pools (along with its spray parks) closed for the entire summer, private pools across the area are open.

ACAC Adventure Central: Members can reserve lanes online (no guests allowed). Bathrooms are limited to one person at a time and outdoor cafés will open soon. ACAC is hoping to open up some of its other pools in Phase Two, and is accepting new members (memberships, which include access to all five area locations, start at $92/month).

Boar’s Head: The pool is currently closed, but the club is making plans to open it to members (with reduced occupancy) in Phase Two. They are accepting a limited number of new members, but it’ll cost you $1,500-$3,900 to join, plus monthly fees of $195-$299.

Farmington Country Club: Farmington is offering “limited services” to members only, which may or may not include the pool—we can’t tell you, because nobody there returned our calls.

Fry’s Spring Beach Club: Currently limited to 10 lap swimmers in the pool at a time, no guests. Summer memberships range from $415-$1,018, plus initiation fees, but the club is not accepting new members at this time (a waitlist is available). In Phase Two, according to its website, FSBC plans to open up all three of its pools, to “a predetermined number of pre-registered, socially distanced members at one time.”

Crozet Park Aquatics: Formerly part of the Piedmont YMCA, the pool in Claudius Crozet Park is now operated by ACAC. It’s open to members for lap swimming from 11am to 7pm —sign up online for a 30- or 60-minute session. Bathrooms are limited to one person at a time.

Lakes

Sorry, lake-lovers: Albemarle County’s three swimming spots (Chris Greene, Mint Springs, and Walnut Creek) are closed for the entire summer, although trails are open. And while the Forest Service has opened some trails in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, the popular Lake Sherando remains closed for the foreseeable future. “We will continue to assess these closure decisions and will continue to work closely with our state and local partners to determine the best path forward,” says a public information officer.

Rivers

Boaters on the Rivanna River. Photo courtesy Rivanna River Company.

Rivanna River Company is offering daily and weekly rentals of kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and tubes, although shuttle service is suspended. You must reserve online, and select a time slot for pickup between 9am and 12:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Equipment rented out within 48 hours of a previous rental will be sanitized by the staff.

James River Reeling & Rafting, in Scottsville, is open for tubing, canoe, kayak, or raft trips, with shuttle service for groups of 10 or fewer. Advanced reservations only.

James River Runners, also located in Scottsville, is taking advance reservations for canoeing, tubing, rafting, and kayaking for groups of 10 or less.

Want to take a dip? Be mindful of currents, always swim with a friend, and avoid the river after heavy rains, when pollution levels can increase.

Swimming holes

At the request of the city and county, Sugar Hollow Reservoir is closed for the summer. But other local swimming holes are still accessible if you’re willing to hike (make sure to bring water, hand sanitizer, and a mask).

Blue Hole: Parking is available at 6796 Sugar Hollow Rd., near the Charlottesville Reservoir. Walk along the trail for about 1.5 miles (it’s a little steep).

Riprap Hollow: For experienced hikers, the Riprap Trail in Shenandoah National Park, which recently reopened, offers a swimming hole about 3.5 miles in. Hike out and back or complete a 10-mile loop. Park at the Riprap Trail parking area at milepost 90 on Skyline Drive. Entrance fees for the park ($15-30) still apply.

Paul’s Creek: Operated by The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen, the trailhead (and parking) is located off Paul’s Creek Court in Nellysford. At just 1.2 miles roundtrip, it’s an easy hike and boasts multiple waterfalls and natural water slides.


Swim safe

There’s no evidence the coronavirus can spread through water in pools, hot tubs, or spray parks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lakes, oceans, and other natural areas have also gotten the seal of approval. But there are many safety precautions to keep in mind before hitting the water.

We spoke with Eric Myers, environmental health supervisor for the Thomas Jefferson Health District, to learn more about how to swim safely during the ongoing pandemic.

While more recreational swimming areas may open up during Phase Two, “we’ve been given no guidance on what that will look like,” Myers says. But in general, he emphasizes that swimmers follow the same COVID-19 prevention efforts as they would out of the water, from social distancing to hand washing. Here are some of his dos and don’ts:

DO:

Limit groups to 10 people or less.

Avoid crowded swimming areas.

Keep six feet or more away from others, both in and out of the water.

Limit sharing of pool toys and gear (kickboards, swimming noodles, etc.), and disinfect them between uses.

Wear a face covering when not swimming.

Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often, especially after touching high-contact surfaces like umbrellas, chairs, etc.

Control droplet spread by coughing or sneezing into your elbow.

Put on sunscreen (make sure it’s not expired).

Follow lifeguard directions and posted swimming
instructions.

DON’T:

Swim if you are sick or live with someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19.

Swim in unguarded areas.

Bring prohibited items, or participate in unauthorized activities. At the beach, that includes: group sports, alcohol, speakers, tents, and groupings of umbrellas.

For more information, visit CDC.gov, or call TJHD’s COVID-19 hotline at 972-6261.


DIY it

As the heat started to set in, local photographer Eric Kelley stared down a summer with three kids under 10 and no pools to go to. So he took matters into his own hands. “It is a galvanized cattle stock tank,” Kelley says of the shiny, 8-foot wide, 2-foot tall metal tub that now sits in his backyard. The tank was designed for cows to drink from, but Kelley turned it into one of the most impressive DIY pools you’ll find in town.

“I got it at Tractor Supply,” he says. The tank was a little bit bent and dented, which is why Kelley scored it for half price. He chased down just the right filter at Valley Pool & Spa in Waynesboro, and even chlorinated the water. “Now we have a beautiful crystal-clear blue pool,” he says.

Kelley’s family normally spends summers at Fry’s Spring Beach Club, just a few blocks from their house. But with everything derailed by the virus, they didn’t join this summer. Kelley’s kids are thrilled to have the stock tank to swim in. “They’re over there right now,” he says. “We’ve been quarantining with a couple neighborhood kids that we’re allowing to be in there with us.”

For those of us who aren’t as ambitious as Kelley, there are other ways to stay cool at home. Walmart has several kiddie pools in stock, while Target sells a more elaborate inflatable pool—complete with an inflatable bench. Hardware stores like Martin’s will fit you with a sprinkler (make sure it has a vertical spray, so there’s plenty of water to jump through). And, of course, there’s always the old reliable garden hose.

 

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