J. Adrian Stanley
Monument Valley Pool
Colorado Springs's city pools are far more expensive than those in Denver, Pueblo, Fort Collins and Boulder. How expensive? Try $35 for a family to go to the pool for a single day.
For comparison's sake, in Denver adults pay $3.50 each and kids, $1. Denver seniors and Denver Public School students get in free. I wrote about the discrepancy in prices here.
But here's a little twist: When asked about expensive pools, city officials pointed out the city has several spray grounds and splash parks that kids can go to free of charge. Then, last week, a local mom went viral on social media and made the TV news with claims that her 2-year-old, Athena, likely contracted hand-foot-and-mouth disease
at John Venezia Community Park's spray ground.
Meantime, local dad Ryan Brown — who you might remember as the black man that Colorado Springs Police say they did not racially profile and then arrest with excessive force
, though they paid $212,000 to settle his case — says he plans to speak to City Council on July 23 about the high fees.
Brown says he's called around since our story ran and isn't satisfied with the reasons he's been given for the high price tags. To him, city pools ought to be affordable for all families.
“It ’s discrimination," he says. "It’s not based on in the '60s, like this is white only, it’s based on class.”
Brown, who plans to bring along his 7-year-old son, says, “I would say 60 percent of the people in this town can’t afford to do that.”
Given the current heat wave, many families that can't afford pools will be heading to those aforementioned spray grounds. Which might seem a little questionable to some parents after that viral story about little Athena. (Who wants to trade a $35 pool entrance fee for hundreds or even thousands of dollars in medical bills and a suffering child?)
So, here's the deal: Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a common childhood ailment. Considered mild, it causes a rash, blisters, and flu-like symptoms and is generally spread through feces, saliva, fluid from blisters, snot, etc.
Athena clearly contracted a severe case. Her body was covered in painful-looking blisters. "She's barely eaten, barely drinking. She's drinking enough to where she's hydrated. She's itchy, she's miserable," Molly Jenig, Athena's mom, recently told KRDO.
News outlets generally noted, and El Paso County Public Health confirms, that while it's possible little Athena got sick at the spray ground, it's unlikely.
"HFMD is most commonly spread a person-to-person via saliva, blister fluid and feces. It is possible a child/person can be exposed by swallowing recreational water, but most likely exposure would be from another person. The incubation period for HFMD is 3-6 days which means a child could come into contact with the virus days prior to infection in a variety of different locations and circumstances (especially if the child mingles with others under the age of 5)," Public Health's Matt Steiner notes.
City spokesperson Jamie Fabos says that the Venezia spray ground was cleaned with a Purell product after the reports from Jenig, in an abundance of caution, but also says that the spray grounds are regularly cleaned:
Here is our protocol:
• Water is tested initially at approximately 7:30 each morning, seven days a week. We test for free chlorine, total chlorine, Ph and alkalinity.
• The test goal is to have between 1 and 5 parts/million of chlorine. If necessary, adjustments are made. Adjustments are necessary infrequently at best.
• The filter system is backwashed twice a day.
• After the initial morning water test the water will be tested two more times during the day for free chlorine, total chlorine, and Ph.
• All protocols are performed per State Health Department guidelines.
• Logs are kept on site of the testing performed (we have them going back to the first day the spray ground opened).
So is that enough to keep kids safe? Maybe. Public Health notes:
• The use of chemical disinfectants in recreational bodies of water are intended to reduce the risk of disease transmission and ensure that a safe and healthy environment is available for use. Two chemicals, chlorine and bromine, are recognized as the only primary disinfectants and approved for use in recreational water. Through numerous scientific studies and data these chemicals are shown to provide effective disinfection for most pathogens of concern in recreational water. While the use of chemical disinfection is important, it really is the use of chemical disinfection in conjunction with recirculation and filtration that provide the greatest decrease in recreational water illness.
In other words, there's always a risk, but your kids are probably fine at the spray grounds. And they're certainly a cheaper choice than the city pools.