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Honolulu pools in city parks reopen for lap swimming

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                                At the McCully District Park swimming pool, Melissa Lockyer swims during her alotted time in lane 1.


    At the McCully District Park swimming pool, Melissa Lockyer swims during her alotted time in lane 1.

In the blazing heat of mid-afternoon, there were only two swimmers in the 5-lane pool in McCully District Park at 2:30 p.m. Friday, the day pools in City and County of Honolulu parks reopened — for limited use— after having been closed since March 19.

But that morning from 9 a.m. to noon, according to pool manager Derek Lee, the pool had received 15 swimmers, putting it at its maximum capacity under new, reopening rules set by the city Department of Parks and Recreation, which allow only one lap swimmer per hour per lane, with lane lines set 6 feet apart.

The hour includes changing and showering — and, according to posted rules, you have to be out of the facility by 5 minutes before the end of the hour; each lane has a number corresponding to a cubbyhole in a stack outside the locker rooms where the swimmer’s personal belongings are stored.

And yes, you heard right, only lap swimming is currently allowed in city pools — which seems more than fine with lap swimmers, along with being forced to have a whole lane to yourself — no sharing, not even with household members.

As he hadn’t been swimming in two and a half months, Jonathan Oba was understandably a little out of breath after covering his first 700 yards.

“I’m a little tired,” said Oba, 22, as he paused for a rest in the shallow end, then broke into a big, relaxed smile as he folded his muscular arms on the pool’s immaculate concrete rim.

“It feels really nice,” said the University of Hawaii at Manoa junior, who worked part-time as a lifeguard and swimming teacher at the YMCA before the coronavirus lockdown. “It was hard to exercise at home, doing pushups.”

Out of concerns regarding the highly transmissible coronavirus, he’d avoided the ocean, although it was open to exercisers, Oba said, because “I figured that’s where lots of people go.”

Melissa Lockyer, who’d been swimming in the far lane, said she’d been swimming in the ocean at the Kaimana, “where it’s usually crowded, and especially now.”

She also felt safer in a pool now the waves were up on the South Shore, said the 39-year-old St. Louis Heights resident, who teaches at Maryknoll High School.

“I’m happy to be back in this wonderful cool water — nice, clean, refreshing, “ Lockyer said, “and we know the likelihood of the virus surviving in water is low.”

She and Oba expressed gratitude to the city and pool staff for the precautions they were taking to ensure social distancing and cleanliness.

When the swimmers got out, lifeguards Courtney Oh, Brad Lilo and Maddie Nejad took turns spraying sanitizer on pool surfaces, wiping down the locker room, and monitoring the exit and entry doors.

Entry is on a first-come, first-served basis, based on signing in, and face coverings are required when arriving and leaving, and all pools are reopening except for three closed for maintenance at Waialua, Waipahū, and Pearl City district parks, DPR said in a statement.

Schedules are dependent upon available staff, particularly pool lifeguards, who are needed, the statement said. DPR is still hiring for these part-time positions, and for the first time 16 and 17-year-olds are able to be employed to work in these positions; to learn more about pool hours or applying for jobs, call the pool location where you would like to work or swim; numbers and addresses are listed at

DPR announced Friday that permitted outdoor team sports practices and drills can begin June 19 with an approved DPR permit. This includes, but is not limited to, canoe club practices and swim team reservations of city pools; applications for permits will be accepted for outdoor park facility use beginning Monday, June 8 for June and July 2020 only.

In city parks, permitted team sport competitions and games can begin July 3 with an approved DPR permit. This includes: swim team reservations of City pools and the following team sports: baseball, softball, soccer, and similar outdoor team sports. It does not include activities that require sustained close contact such as wrestling, boxing, and mixed martial arts.

Previously approved permits for permitted sports will be honored; for more information, visit

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