In a perfect world, we’d just take off a tarp and Pelican Harbor Outdoor Aquatic Park would be ready to go in a day.  However, when you’re having fun splashing around Pelican Harbor Outdoor Aquatic Park this summer, that’s a result of countless hours of teamwork to get the operation up and running.  For Cliff Beyer, buildings maintenance manager, it’s a very challenging, but rewarding process.

To give you an idea of how big Pelican Harbor Outdoor Aquatic Park is, we’ll have to break it down in to gallons.  A typical household bathtub holds about 42 gallons of water.  All the pools at the outdoor aquatic park hold a combined 750,000 gallons! The small slides and zero-depth pools hold 220,000  and 525,000 gallons for the lazy river and dive well (that’s also about how many bees there are at Hidden Oaks Nature Center, read more about that on page 10) to be exact. That’s not even including the indoor pool.

Before anything is filled with water, the buildings team begin the work in April. It’s a careful process that has been perfected in Pelican Harbor’s 25-year history.  It starts by checking each pool and repairing cracks and seams.  When the caulk dries, it’s time to paint. Each year a different pool gets a new coat of paint. Over the last three years, the entire aquatic park will have had a fresh coat.

“The whole process is one giant team effort,” said Beyer.  It takes the entire district to get this operation up and running from the aquatics team, business office, to customer care, everyone.  Even the recreation team has come to help paint.”

While the paint dries, the team has to manually check 75+ valves to make sure they’re closed before the pools are filled.  It can take up to three days for one of the pools to be filled.  A pool operators’ worst nightmare are leaks. They can happen anywhere and no matter how well you shut the pool down in the fall, thanks to Illinois’ winters.

“It certainly is nerve-wracking when the pools are filled.  We hope each year that we will be leak-free, but even with proper shutdown procedures, some leaks do occur.” said Beyer.  “But our team has done an excellent job over the past couple of years to minimize issues.”

The pools are filled after the leaks are fixed, the team checks the slides for cracks and paint chips and then makes the proper fixes.  Once it gets closer to opening the park, the operation moves to the bathhouses to install shower heads, sink and toilet fixtures before water is turned on back to the building.  All the lines and fixtures were removed for the winter so they wouldn’t freeze and crack.

Finally, the surge tanks and filtration systems need to be cleaned and checked.  There are four large sand filters (look like giant blue pills) and a whole mess of pipes and valves that need to be signed off on prior to opening the pool.

So, as you cruise down the slides or chill in the lazy river, know that it took a big district-wide effort to get that point.  The work is all worth it to us when we see all the smiling faces of our community enjoying the pool.

“The best part of this process to me is not only seeing all the people having fun, but the amount of pride our staff takes in getting the pools up and running,” said Beyer.  “It’s fun to see it all come together and how happy people are when the job is complete.”