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Free swimming at Blakely Park in Lodi this summer

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Thanks to local donors, it will be free to swim every weekend this summer at Blakely Park pool. Those swim sessions begin this Saturday, despite ongoing construction at the smaller pool.

“We’re committed to maintaining the pool for our structured swimming lessons and swim league,” said Jeff Hood, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. “The question was, what would we do with the pool the rest of the time when we didn’t have a scheduled activity?”

Since January, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department has been asking for donations to pay for free swim sessions at the park on Stockton and Poplar streets.

The idea started last August during one 100-degree Saturday, when the department opened the pool for free. Several hundred people enjoyed the cool water. But the next weekend, when the entry fee returned, only 14 swimmers came around. With more planning, the department found donors for every weekend. The final one stepped up this week.

The Michael-David Family Foundation is sponsoring four of the weekends. The foundation is also paying to have swim instructors available throughout those weekends to work one-on-one with young swimmers.

“We are happy to be part of providing free access to Blakely Pool, and we are very excited to have certified swim instructors there each day to provide free lessons to the kids. Hopefully, some future swimming stars will be discovered,” foundation member David Phillips said.

The free swim lessons provided during the weekends at Blakely Park will be impromptu and focus first on staying safe in the water. They will not replace the City of Lodi’s regularly scheduled swim lesson program.

Other sponsors include Lodi Health, FCB Homes, Reynolds Ranch Partners, Carol Marvel, Lodi City Swim Club, Woodbridge Greens Area Residents and service clubs Omega Nu, Lodi Tokay Rotary Club and Lodi Lions. The cost of providing lifeguards for a weekend is $650.

“The Lodi community’s generosity is incredible, but not surprising,” Hood said. “These donations will keep our public swimming program alive, (and) allow the children of this city to enjoy a summer of swimming at no cost and learn how to stay safe in the water.”

Repairs to the deck on the smaller, shallower pool are still underway. Repairs to the circulation system are complete. Concrete will be poured this week. Only one pool will be open this weekend for the summer’s first free swim hours. The next will open in the coming weeks.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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