CLIFTON PARK — In an annual rite of summer, the town's three town pools opened on Sunday.
Unfortunately for people hoping to use them, it was a damp and overcast day and significantly cooler than the previous two days, when the temperature climbed into the uppers 80s.
The staff and lifeguards at all of the pools -- one on Barney Road, one on Locust Lane, and one in Country Knolls -- ignored the rain and clouds as they made last-minute preparations to open for the summer season.
When the gates opened at Barney Road at noon, there were no brave kids -- or grown-ups -- ready to take the plunge. Lifeguard Bruce Suphin said, however, that die-hards will traditionally show on first the first day at some point even if the weather doesn't cooperate.
Brian Stanley, one of the head lifeguards at the Barney Road pool, has been working there for more than six summers.
Stanley returned to Clifton Park from school in Boston on May 12, and explained that he and other guards have been working each day since then to ready the pool for swimmers.
First, Stanley said, lifeguards, who also serve as pool maintenance staff and groundskeepers, unpack the pool clubhouse and move equipment outside. Then, the covers are removed from the pools.
“If something goes wrong, we’re replacing pipes or concrete, all that stuff,” Stanley said.
Staff then put up the diving boards and put the ladders into the pools so lifeguards can get into the pools to clean them.
“It starts with structural stuff,” he said. Then, the guards clean out any dirt and leaves from the pool, power-wash the walls, and then finally refill all the pools, a process Stanley said takes at least a day-and-a-half.
If a guard is working on cleaning the pool, there are usually two other guards working at the same time to make sure there aren’t any injuries.
Getting the pools ready isn’t difficult, but some knowledge and experience is necessary, he added.
“You’ve gotta know what you’re doing,” he said. “There’s a ton of water.”
The lifeguards also participate in drills throughout their shifts, either on land or in the water.
While it’s crucial to know how to respond to an emergency, Stanley said that knowing how to respond to an emergency a guard might not be directly involved with is just as important.
“You still have to know what’s going on and what to do,” he said.
All three town locations host a full-sized pool, a diving pool, and a small, shallow pool for children. The Locust Lane pool features a large tent that can be rented for celebrations or parties. The three pools are not only great sources of recreation but a place where friendships and community bonds are built.
The Country Knolls and Barney Road pools will be open daily from noon to dusk until Sept. 3. The Locust Lane Pool will be open on weekends and midweek at 4 p.m. until the last day of school, and then will open daily at noon through Labor Day.
Sutphin manages both the Locust Land pool and the Barney Road pool. He was a lifeguard for the town, and now he brings his kids to the town pools.
For Sutphin, seeing people who swam in the pools when he was a lifeguard come back years later with children of their own is a rewarding aspect of the job.
He also takes pride in seeing lifeguards work at the pools for many years, starting at age 16 and often sticking around until they graduate from college.
“I love to keep them through graduation,” he said of his lifeguards. “I’d love to keep them even longer.”
Stanley agreed that his favorite part of being a lifeguard is the chance to form bonds with not only his fellow lifeguards, but with pool users as well.
He has made friends while working at Barney Road pool, and come across many area residents with interesting stories and unique jobs. On a sunny and warm day, Stanley said he has seen more than 500 people come through the pool gates.
“It’s always been the people portion of it. I love the staff who works here,” he said. “If the staff was bad I wouldn’t come back. At the same time, there’s people I remember from year to year. You see them year to year and they see you year to year. It’s one of the best relationships I’ve had.”