photo courtesy City of Iowa City Parks and Recreation

City of Iowa City Parks and Recreation

Iowa City, Iowa

A strong community features many clear hallmarks, two of which are collaboration and inclusivity. The Iowa City Parks and Recreation team illustrated both with this year’s introduction of their Pride at the Pool event to recognize the local LGBTQ+ community.

While this marked the first Pride event for the Parks and Rec department, Iowa City itself celebrated its 50th year of Pride.

“We partner in the city and county-wide Pride celebrations, so adding in a recreational program that honored Pride was important for us," says Kate Connell, aquatics program supervisor for the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department.

This seemed particularly appropriate, since people sometimes don't feel completely safe to visit or participate, she adds. "While we are always focusing on policies and staff training that ensure everyone has an equitable pool and program experience, we felt a celebratory event was also a great way to blend together aquatics and pride,” she says.

Admission was free, and at least 300 guests attended the June event.

Of course, the team made it a priority to create as inclusive an environment as possible. To that end, they provided guests with pronoun pins and posted additional signage regarding single-use restrooms. Before the event, they reviewed with staff the policies regarding bathing attire so they could field any questions that came up.

“We made sure to reiterate our team's understanding of our pre-existing policies, including allowing anyone to use whatever bathroom they wish, offering a single-user bathroom option to folks who preferred not to use our communal locker rooms, and emphasizing people's freedom to wear the swim attire of their choosing," Connell says.

The staff also discussed how they should respond to discriminatory comments or complaints. Fortunately, they didn't receive any at the Pride event.

Iowa City Parks and Recreation partnered with the local Pride organization to brainstorm ways to make the event memorable as well as accessible. To accomplish this, they chose to include more passive programming that allowed guests to feel safe while enjoying recreational swimming.

Pride at the Pool’s passive programming included a bracelet-making station and Drag Storytime, during which local drag performers read water-themed books with a wide variety of characters.

A Pride flag hung from the diving board, and participants could enjoy swag such as mini Pride flags and temporary tattoos. To top it all off, guests also were treated to free food and entertainment throughout the event.

Iowa City Parks and Recreation plans to offer this event again next year, in hopes of continuing to increase its impact.

“We wanted to give folks, first and foremost, an opportunity to recreate in a public pool through swimming, playing and sunbathing in a safe aquatics space,” Connell says. “Adding in a recreational program that honored Pride was important for us, and we look forward to doing it again next year!”