Source: Winooski News | Image Source: Myer’s Memorial Pool, image courtesy of the City of Winooski website
Though the neighboring city of Burlington is host to multiple cooling shelters, Winooski lists only one on the state’s interactive map — Myers Memorial Pool. But that may have more to do with the nature of the map than the city’s resources.
In late May, the Vermont Department of Health issued a warning on the “unseasonable heat” the area saw during the final days of the month, with temperatures creeping into the high 80s and low 90s. As a public tool, the department created an interactive map of cooling shelters available across the state, both public and private, for residents to seek cool refuge in bouts of hot temperatures.
But a cooling shelter by the health department’s definition isn’t the sister of the heating shelters Chittenden County saw pop up this past winter in weeks of extreme cold. Heating shelters offer health resources and often a place to sleep on dangerously cold days. They are staffed with personnel to stay open and aid the public.
Vermont Department of Health Climate and Health Program manager Jared Ulmer said the aim of the map is to “raise awareness that this is a place someone could go to — it doesn’t necessarily mean the palace is offering something different or more than their normal course of business.”
Common cooling shelters include public libraries, senior centers and recreation sites with water access. They range from free and open to the public, to private or at the cost of a small fee.
The absence of Winooski’s public air-conditioned facilities on the map, Ulmer said, is likely due to delays in updating the list. The May release was “based on facilities that had been advertised during previous years during heat advisories, then outreach to senior centers and libraries.”
Ulmer says the list is still growing, and the Department of Health aims to do more outreach on the town level over the course of the summer.
Winooski’s registered cooling location, Myers Memorial Pool, requires a pass to access it, though the city and its own Myers Memorial Pool Foundation are making efforts to provide a low-cost option. But even at a reduced price, passes may still be an expense for some residents. A family season pass for Winooski residents is $120.00 and individual day passes range from $4-6 for members of the community.
Ray Coffey, community service director for Winooski, oversees Myer’s Memorial Pool. He says the city recreation department provides free pool passes under a zero-questions-asked policy to dozens of Winooski families to further the community reach of the pool and provide better access.
Coffey says the pool is finding new ways to serve its community, both in the recent renovation — the space now accommodates a second pool and a community room for meetings and birthday parties — and in programming.
At the pool, every Friday has a senior-only swim time hosted by the Winooski Senior Center, where things are generally a little quieter with “no kids doing cannonballs over your shoulders all the time.”
Myer’s Memorial pool also offers a low-stimulus swim once a week for Winooski families impacted by autism or sensory needs, as well as weekly toddler swim and children’s swim lessons.
“Last year we had over 950 kids pass the deep water swim test” said Coffey.
Located on Pine street below Landry Park, the pool underwent recent renovation in 2016 to accommodate six lap lanes, an inclined entry pool for accessibility, and a twisting 16 ft water slide. Now open for the 2023 season, Myer’s Memorial pool is staffed with lifeguards and offers swim lessons and aqua aerobics as listed on the City of Winooski website.
Ulmer, the state official, also offered everyday heat management advice in a recent press release: “During hot weather, your body’s temperature control systems can have a hard time keeping up. It’s important to ease into outdoor activities, to drink plenty of water and to take frequent breaks in the shade or cool indoor locations, especially during these first really hot days of the season.”
He urged in an interview to “be thoughtful about friends and neighbors that may be at particularly high risk for heat illness and to stay in touch.”
City Manager Elaine Wang encourages people to use the library and, if they are a senior, the senior center to cool down as each spot offers air-conditioning. She also cautioned over email to “NOT to go into the Winooski river to cool off, as the current is quite strong quite close to shore, and people have drowned doing that.”
And while they may not be on the official list today, you can visit the senior center or Winooski Memorial Library to find air conditioning in addition to Myer’s Memorial Pool to cool down as summer reaches the Onion City.