Mayor Wu announces investments in water safety, free swimming lessons across the city
Today, Mayor Michelle Wu, the Office of Human Services (OHS), and Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) announced investments in water safety with the Swim Safe initiative. This commitment is marked by a series of investments to support residents' safety at Boston’s beaches, pools, and natural water bodies throughout the summer. The City, in partnership with local organizations, will be offering free swim lessons throughout the summer at select pools in Boston operated by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and the YMCA of Greater Boston. Mayor Wu made this announcement at the reopening of the BCYF Paris Street Pool in East Boston following a three year, $10.2 million dollar renovation. These announcements build off the Mayor’s commitment to ensure all Boston kids learn to swim and can safely enjoy our City’s coastline and pools.
“Every child growing up in Boston should learn how to swim, for life safety, health, and fun! I’m grateful to so many partner organizations joining with the City to expand the opportunities for families to enjoy swimming in Boston and make this accessible across our neighborhoods. We are thrilled to announce these initiatives while reopening the Paris Street Pool, which can now continue to be a destination for youth and families for years to come,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “By investing in our public facilities and making swim lessons affordable and accessible Citywide, we are making Boston a more family-friendly, enjoyable place to live.”
“As a City surrounded by water, it is critical for our young people to have basic water safety awareness and to know how to swim,” said Council President Ed Flynn. “Over the last several years, I have worked with city leaders and community partners in discussing ways to increase access to swimming lessons and awareness of water safety. It is important to provide swimming lessons for our residents, especially young people of color and low income families, so that they can have the basic skills to be safe around water.”
"East Boston is a coastal community with environmental treasures such as the Boston Harbor and Belle Isle Marsh," said Councilor Gabriela Coletta. "The ability to swim is a necessary life skill that ensures safety while unlocking enjoyment from these natural assets that surround our community and city. I am extremely grateful to past and current Mayoral administrations for the transformative investment into the Paris Street pool and to all partners who will be providing free swim lessons for our kids."
As part of the Swim Safe program, the city is offering free swim lessons throughout the summer at select pools in Boston operated by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and the Greater Boston YMCA. Lessons will be held at Boys & Girls Clubs in Roxbury and Dorchester, and at all of the Boston YMCA locations. A full list can be found here.
In addition, $500,000 was earmarked in this year’s City budget to fund swim safety through Boston Centers for Youth & Families. The initiative will be able to offer free lessons for up to 500 additional children. Through a generous donation from Children’s Hospital Boston, the city will make up to 1,000 personal flotation devices available free of charge to parents of young children who visit the city’s beaches.
Despite being a coastal city with beaches along the harbor and numerous indoor and outdoor swimming pools, not all Boston residents have equal access to opportunities to learn how to swim. Nationally, fatal drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 years old and the second leading cause of injury death for children ages 5-14 (CDC). Black and Latino youth are less likely to know how to swim and therefore are at higher risk of drowning (CDC).
“While we celebrate the reopening of this beautiful pool, we want to stress that water safety is paramount as we head into the summer months. Through Swim Safe Boston, we hope to give all families the tools they need to keep their child safe in the water,” said Chief of Human Services, José F. Massó. “We are grateful to our partners for making lessons available across the city and for helping us highlight the importance of water safety for everyone.”
"Access to pools, natural water, and so much more is an opportunity that must be available to all. Incumbent in that access is the confidence that young people and families will feel safe and be able to enjoy the water," said David Shapiro, YMCA of Greater Boston CEO. "The Y and our nine city branches are proud to partner in the Swim Safe collaborative so that together we can remove barriers and provide the pools, lessons, and expertise needed to ensure all Bostonians have the access and skills in and around the water."
Today, Mayor Wu joined East Boston residents to officially reopen the BCYF Paris Street pool. The upgraded pool is fully modernized, featuring an open, airy main entrance and lobby, fully renovated changing rooms, a new pool filter room, mechanical and electrical upgrades, building interior and exterior repairs, and other upgrades making it a more inviting and user-friendly space.
“The BCYF Paris Pool reopening is incredibly exciting and we now have a pool facility the community can be proud of that is updated, bright and welcoming,” said Marta E. Rivera, Commissioner of Boston Centers for Youth & Families. “And, given the alarming rate of minority children that cannot swim, this is a particularly important investment in East Boston where over half of the population is Latino.”
The renovation of the pool was managed by the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department working in partnership with Architects Powers and Company and General Contractor WCI Corporation. The pool is located directly across the street from the BCYF Paris Street Community Center. The center reopened in 2017 after receiving a $12 million renovation.
There will be no charge for membership or programming at the pools but visitors need to create a membership at Boston.gov/BCYF-Registration. Registration for classes and programs can be done on the pool’s webpage, Boston.gov/BCYF-Paris-Street-Pool.
"This is a natural partnership that prioritizes our city’s young people and families, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston is honored to answer the call, just as we have for 130 years," said Robert Lewis, Jr., Nicholas President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. "BGCB is grateful to Mayor Wu and the Swim Safe initiative for providing access and opportunity to support this critical life skill."
The Mayor also used the occasion to release a promotional video encouraging residents to join the city’s lifeguard workforce. Cities across the country have faced lifeguard shortages that make it difficult to staff pools. To encourage more people to become lifeguards, the city is offering a starting wage of $22/hr, signing and retention bonuses, and part-time positions that might appeal to retirees or others seeking a lower number of hours. People interested in becoming a BCYF lifeguard can learn more here.