July 17, 2013

Parking an Issue at Pool as Heat Wave Persists

The heat is on, and Princeton residents are cooling off in record numbers at the Community Pool. While there is room in the water for the 1,600 or so who are patronizing the Witherspoon Street complex each day, parking is another story. Anyone who has cruised through the lot, which serves the municipal building as well as the pool, knows that a spot can be a precious commodity during peak hours.

“Parking is far from perfect,” said Ben Stentz, Princeton’s recreation director. “The consolidation of the town’s operations and the fact that court has been expanded to two days a week has a lot to do with it. And those factors combined with a popular pool can make it a little bit crazy.”

Mr. Stenz said the town has emailed regular pool customers to alert them of overflow options, which include the lots at Community Park School and the park’s tennis courts. “I think for the most part, the pool patrons have done a good job of finding them,” he said. “But on days when court is in session, the full municipal staff is working and people want to swim, it creates a bit of a log jam.”

There are alternatives to driving to the pool. “We’ve tried to spread the word about use of the FreeB, which does stop at the complex, though I know that doesn’t work for everybody,” Mr. Stentz said. “But we try to encourage it. We also love it when people walk or ride their bikes, and we have plenty of bike racks.”

Attendance at the pool all summer has been “remarkable,” Mr. Stentz said, averaging about 1,600 visitors a day. The number can be deceiving, though. “All of those people aren’t here at the same time. We have programming, with specific hours for the master swimmers, the swim team, and swim and dive lessons,” he said. “We don’t open to the public until noon, so there is a kind of ebb and flow to the attendance.” The pool stays open until 8 p.m.

The American Red Cross has warned that excessive heat can be deadly, and urges those without air-conditioning to patronize area cooling stations during the warmest part of the day. The Princeton Police Department at 1 Valley Road, the Suzanne Patterson Center behind 1 Monument Drive, and the Princeton Public Library at 65 Witherspoon Street are designated local cooling stations. The Patterson Center is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The library’s hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, till 6 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Never leave children or pets in the car, stay hydrated, avoid extreme temperature changes, avoid wearing dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays, avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day, and check the contents of an emergency preparedness kit in the event of a power outage, the Red Cross recommends. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion — cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, and dizziness. Call 911 if the person becomes ill or begins to lose consciousness.

At Community Park Pool, attendance is expected to spike this week as the heat wave continues. “We know that the numbers will jump,” Mr. Stentz said. “But listen, that’s why we’re here.”