It's been an abnormal season for many community pools and water parks, navigating through nationwide lifeguard shortages.
The City of Killeen has been faced with staffing shortages throughout the season and now must close its main water park.
The Killeen Aquatics Center is one of many community pools across our viewing area that have been faced with staffing and lifeguard shortages. On a Friday night any other year, the gates at the aquatic center would be open welcoming visitors from across the city but after a season filled with one hurdle after another, the sounds of summer are now silent.
"This has been our shortest season for this park," said Claryce Free, the city's Aquatics Manager.
Free had gotten used to the sights and sounds of a filled park but now she says it's an eerie sense of calm, but the challenges Free and her team faced were not unique.
"Navigating through the season was tough I will say we had an incredible group of staff who were resilient they came in they knew the possibility that our facilities may change, and we may open or close one," said Free. "Coming in this season was difficult I think a lot of the aquatics directors in our area faced that, but we really took it one day at a time."
Normally, the park opens on Memorial Day and closes on Labor day weekend. This year the park opened a few weeks later than projected they are locking up early.
This year has been a noticeable difference for Monty Montanye Sr., the Aquatics maintenance supervisor.
"We didn’t have to do as much like washing the pools and stuff like that because we didn’t have as many people, so it was a little easier this year than last summer," Montanye said.
"We’re going to try and update it a bunch of stuff the slides will be faster than they were this year and some of the spray features will work a little better," Montanye said.
"The park itself is getting some new signs getting some new visions as far as what the theme is and things like that so just making it a little more pool together," Free said.
As far as assessing staffing shortages, Free is looking ahead to next season, thinking about how she can switch up recruiting efforts.