Flandrau hopes to open a swimming pool for the first time since 2019 | Local News

NEW ULM – Flandrau State Park’s popular sand-bottom swimming pond was forced to close in 2020 due to the pandemic lockdown and remained so in 2021 because it couldn’t meet federal COVID requirements -19 for much of the year.

Park officials hope to welcome swimmers back – to a pond that has been repaired and upgraded – this spring.

But the difficulty in finding enough lifeguards could again upset plans to open it this summer.

“The minimum we want is seven, but we would like to have eight,” said Maureen Morgan, assistant park manager.

They have been advertising jobs since February and will continue until early April. “We have a few candidates,” she said.

Although everyone has struggled to find employees, the market for lifeguards is perhaps a bit smaller than many. Public pools in New Ulm and Lake Crystal are also recruiting lifeguards, as well as pools in Mankato and North Mankato, perhaps limiting the number of teens and young adults available for lifeguards.

Morgan said they would hire people with previous experience or train them. There is Red Cross training which involves a day or two of classroom work, then practical training and an exam.

She said if they end up hiring fewer than seven lifeguards, they will assess whether they can provide enough cover to open the pond.

While the pond was closed, the park took the opportunity to perform long-delayed maintenance.

“We installed new pumps to bring water into the pond. We are upgrading all lifeguard towers. We worked on skimmers. So starting this year we have a pretty much new facility,” Morgan said.

The park is also preparing to open its rustic campsite. The main campsite is open all year round.

Morgan said some traveling workers park their RVs in the campground in the winter, and the park’s two heated cabins see heavy use on winter weekends.

“And when Bock Fest comes around, the campground is full,” she said of the big annual event at Schell’s Brewery.

The rustic campground opens no later than Memorial Day. But the rustic campground won’t open until other residents do what they need to do in early spring.

“We have a nice colony of cellophane bees there,” Morgan said.

Bees, somewhat smaller than a honey bee, are great pollinators and spend much of their time underground. They were discovered in the rustic campsite in 2019 by park staff.

“At first we thought they were terrestrial wasps, but luckily that’s not the case. They are very docile, they don’t mind us being there.

But they don’t want to disturb the bees when they come out of the ground in the spring and begin their life cycle. “They get food, pollinate, mate,” she said. “Then it’s just the youngsters who are underground after that until they come out.”

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