Parks and Recreation

In Portland, Summer 2021 Will Include Public Pools

After closures in 2020, summer camps, splash pads, and pop-up concerts will also return.

By Julia Silverman February 18, 2021

Everybody into the pool!

OK, maybe not quite—at least not yet.

Still, in an encouraging sign that at least some of summer 2021 will be reclaimed, the Portland Parks and Recreation Department announced Thursday that outdoor pools will reopen this summer, albeit in a limited capacity.

Pools will open for swim lessons, water fitness classes, lap swim and swim teams, according to a release from the department.

But free-for-all open swims are still a question mark.

“We will continue to monitor the situation as summer approaches, and some plans may be revised and/or refined as circumstances dictate,” says Mark Ross, a spokesman for the department.

Still, it’s better than the situation in 2020, when all city pools were off-limits to the masses.

More good news: splash pads and interactive fountains, long a refuge for kids and caregivers on hot summer days, are “anticipated” to reopen, after being closed last summer to prevent large crowds.

Since last summer, scientists and researchers have understood more about COVID-19, and we now know that outdoor transmission is extremely rare, and also that shared surfaces are also an uncommon vehicle for transmission.

The department is also reviving its summer camps program in 2021, after going on hiatus in summer of 2020. Camps will be outdoors only, and focused on arts, science and nature programming; Ross says that registration information is forthcoming, “maybe within a few weeks.”

Here’s what’s not coming back, at least not yet: a full slate of free movies and concerts in the parks, which are usually big summertime draws. Instead, plans call for “small-scale pop-up performances” to be available citywide, presumably to keep crowds down. Pro tip: check out Gateway Discovery Park in East Portland for a potentially more robust slate of cultural activities from the city.

And despite private gyms and fitness studios around the metro area reopening in limited capacity last week thanks to declining COVID case numbers and positivity rates, publicly-run indoor community centers and gyms will remain closed for now, Ross says. There are no plans “at this time” to reopen them.

Another key factor in the ability to open up pools and summer camps this summer, Ross says, was voter approval in November for a parks and recreation-specific levy. Funding from the levy won't be available until this coming November, so the city council is allowing an interfund loan to make summer operations possible.

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