By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — Local park officials say they are nearly finished hiring staff for the new Mt. Vernon Aquatic Zoo, which is set to open May 24.
The water park will employ roughly 40 lifeguards, 15 to 20 guest services staff and four managers. Guest services staff will handle concessions and general admissions.
Theresa Burgess, Joyce Damron and Jeana Shelton have been hired as aquatic managers. A concession manager, Marcus Kolb, has also been hired.
The only additional hirings at this point would be more lifeguards, said George Bryant, Mt. Vernon parks and public facilities director.
“We've already started with our initial training with some of the staff,” Bryant said.
Wes Plummer, recreation coordinator for the Mt. Vernon Parks and Recreation Department, said training the staff is a key part of the process.
“There's lots of preparation going into getting the final touches on the facility and getting the staff in place so that they are comfortable with their surroundings, comfortable with the operations of the pool,” Plummer said.
Crews recently finished painting the basin of the Lazy River and Leisure Pool areas of the park. Starting later this week or early next week, crews may begin filling the pool areas with water.
Bryant said it's important to fill the pools well in advance of the opening so the water can be balanced and adjustments can be made if necessary.
This week, crews are also installing large shade umbrellas at the park and will bring in new picnic tables, he said.
“There's just a lot of finishing touches we're working on now to get it open,” Bryant said. “I don't have any concerns at this time about not opening up on Memorial Day Weekend. I'm looking forward to it.”
Some of the Aquatic Zoo's amenities will include two 30-foot tall slides, one 112-foot body slide, one 266-foot dual rider tube slide, a children's Splash Pad, interactive voice and light features, concessions and more.
Bryant said the Splash Pad area should be especially popular for younger children. This area features playground equipment and animal figures that spray water or talk at the press of a button, he said.
“I'm really pleased with the types of features that we were able to put in the complete complex,” Bryant said. “We wanted to make sure that the facility had a safari or jungle theme, not a concrete jungle.”
Plummer said one of the main challenges of opening the facility will be not having much time to operate the park without the public being there.
Still, he added he's optimistic about the upcoming opening.
“We've got to kind of learn under the watchful eye of the public, so we're going to get as ready as we can and make sure that we're providing a safe environment for the public and hit the ground running,” Plummer said.
Hours for the Aquatic Zoo will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Daily rates are: free for ages 1 and under, $6 for ages 2 to 17, $8 for ages 18 to 64, and $6 for ages 65 and older.