With pools closed, Rochester residents turn to area beaches to beat the heat

·3 min read

Jun. 12—Children squeal with joy as they sprint into the cool water. A man sunbathes, beer in hand. And a group of teenagers gather around a small volleyball net, half shouting in triumph and half groaning as a point gets away.

As a heat wave continues across the Rochester area, these scenes are a daily occurrence as people find ways to cool off. But with the city's public pools shut down through Monday due to safety concerns, residents have turned to two area beaches to beat the heat.

At Foster-Arend Park, dozens of beachgoers scrambled to the lake to relax on a toasty Friday. A group of children watched as their friend performed a standing belly flop, splatting into the sea-green water. Several families rushed the gate to the adjoining water park, which was just opening.

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And Kim Churack was observing. The Rochester native is in town and remembers frequent summer trips to Soldiers Field Pool. But this is her first time at Foster-Arend, which didn't exist when she was growing up.

"This is a beautiful beach area," Churack said. "Got to have somewhere to go to cool off."

Although Foster-Arend hadn't been noticeably busier since Wednesday's decision to close pools, the city expects "nice crowds" this weekend both there and at Cascade Lake, according to Ben Boldt, the recreation supervisor for Rochester's Parks and Recreation department.

Fifteen minutes east of Rochester, there is a similar buzz at Chester Woods Park. Like Foster-Arend, Chester Woods has not had a major increase in visitors this week due to the heat, according to Chester Woods Park Manager Tom Eckdahl.

But that doesn't mean families aren't getting out to enjoy the cool water.

Mid-day Friday, when the temperature was in the mid-80s accompanied by a sweat-popping dew point, a group of friends play a game, one as the shark and the others as prey. A cool breeze rustled the trees, kicking up sand and providing momentary relief from the pounding sun. And off to the side, Fernando Rosas was tossing a foam torpedo with his son, Juliano.

Rosas and his wife, Whitney, visited the park with their children for the first time on Friday after their reservation at the city pool was canceled. The Rochester residents said they were dismayed with the behavior of people at the pools and understood the need to temporarily close it.

"It's kind of concerning being a parent," Whitney Rosas said. "It's kind of scary when you have little kids and you're watching them (and you can't see them because of crowding)."

The two just may have found a new favorite cool-off spot at Chester Woods.

They said they appreciate the quiet, safe nature of the swimming area, and that it's free to access for the remainder of the year. Even as the city's pools reopen Monday, the family is not rushing to return.

"We don't want to be the guinea pigs as to how it's going to turn out," Fernando Rosas said.