As temperatures climbed into the 90s and summer humidity set in Tuesday, sweaty residents desperate for a cool respite headed to the Westminster Municipal Pool to beat the heat.
The pool's summer hours officially began Saturday, and for the remainder of the summer season its gates will open to the general public at noon and close at 7 p.m. seven days a week — good news for swimmers and sunbathers alike.
As Bob Alexander stretched out on a lawn chair in the grass, his grandchildren splashed in the pool, a typical babysitting afternoon for Alexander, who watches them on summer days.
"It's great. There's lots of things for them to do, and I can relax while they play," said Alexander, who has had a pool membership for about three years. "There's a nice family atmosphere, and this way I know that we're both having fun. Not to mention, it's nice bonding also."
The winter weather was rough on the pool. The repeated freezing and thawing led to more than a few cracked tiles in need of replacing, Westminster City Department of Recreation and Parks Director Abby Gruber said. Maintenance before the opening day included new tiles, a face lift for the main pool designed to enhance the experience of pool visitors
"The changes are pretty slight," Gruber said. "But honestly, they end up being pretty substantial if you're coming to a pool. We want guests to have a positive experience when they come."
Flooring in the locker rooms was also replaced and additional lounge chairs were added to the pool deck in an attempt to accommodate the around 200 visitors the pool sees on an average, sunny summer day.
Krystina Nelson, who purchased a membership for the first time this year following positive recommendations from neighbors, brought her daughter and family members to the pool to escape the hot weather.
Her daughter, Kassidy Hanlon, 6, is enrolled in swim lessons, but spent the day jumping and splashing in the water and retrieving hoops from the bottom of the pool with her cousin.
"It's a good price and a cheap way to keep kids entertained and happy," Nelson said. "Everything seems perfect so far, there's a great snack bar, and since my schedule is pretty weird, it works out that we can come here during the day and I can work at night."
The pool offers a summer membership price, which varies based on whether the person is a city resident or not and whether they purchase an individual or family membership. They also offer "drop-in" prices for visitors interested in just a day at the pool.
In July, the pool will host aqua fitness classes in the evenings at a nominal fee for interested participants without a membership.
And, throughout the summer, the Westminster Stingrays swim team puts the pool to good work, making waves and turning laps during morning and evening practices.
"It's a dance fitting everything in the schedule sometimes," Gruber said. "It takes some playing around, but once the summer gets going and we get into the swing of things, it ends up working out."
Erika Davis, who has seen several summers of pool life from behind the screen of the concession stand, can attest to that.
Davis studies at Salisbury University, but came back for the summer for her fourth year at the Country Cafe-owned stand. As an elementary education major, she said she enjoys seeing the kids come back every summer, a little bit older and a little bit bigger.
"I don't usually have the time to actually swim, but I'd love to take a jump in sometimes," Davis said. "It's fun even without swimming, though. Coming back to the pool feels like coming back home."