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Swimming beaches, a popular summer draw, are set to open in Seattle

Swimmers at Green Lake's West Beach.
Kate McCarthy, Creative Commons
Swimmers at Green Lake's West Beach.

As summer weather and an upcoming long holiday weekend beckon people outside, more outdoor activities are opening up in Seattle. The city is opening five swimming beaches starting this Wednesday, July 1. These include Madison, Matthews, Mount Baker, West Green Lake and Pritchard.

These beaches will be staffed with lifeguards. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is asking people to stay close to shore.

"We are asking folks to swim chest deep and more shallow. And that's because we're hoping to avoid any rescues this summer, because rescues are obviously going to be some pretty intimate contact," said Rachel Schulkin, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department. "But, you know, no one's going to stop you from swimming deeper. But it's just kind of our request, we're hoping that, should you need the support of a lifeguard, that you stay in a relatively shallow area.” 

To dissuade swimmers from going too deep, the beaches will not have any diving boards this year. Each beach will have an additional lifeguard whose job will be to enforce social distancing. The city says groups can be no bigger than five people. If it’s not possible to stay 6 feet apart from others, then you’ll be expected to wear a mask when you’re not swimming. 

Seattle Parks and Recreation also is starting to take reservations for covered picnic pavilions and for tennis courts. But again, no more than five people at a time. Basketball courts are open, but to small groups only, and no pick-up games with strangers.

“So a few tips on that for basketball,” Schulkin said, “games like Hawks, games like Around the World, shooting around, playing a game with people who live within your household.”

Schulkin also has advice for people playing tennis.

“Making sure that you're not sharing equipment with other people, making sure that you're washing your hands before and after," she said. "Some things we see in our more popular tennis courts are people kind of queuing up alongside the court. That's not great. We think doubles is a little bit of a slippery slope.”  

Even though all Seattle Parks and Recreation operated camps are canceled for the summer, child care is still being offered. There are still openings for children ages 5 to 12. Tacoma’s parks department also says it has openingsfor child care and camps.


Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.