Summer doesn't get much better than this.
For the past few hours, Caitlin Murphy, 11, has been making the most of her day at the Forest City Community Park pool in Wantagh, her hometown. Caitlin, her sister Erin, 10, her mom, plus a number of aunts and cousins, have set up lawn chairs in their usual spot in front of the pergola a few steps from the pool. By 3 p.m., all four moms are in relaxation mode, sitting back and watching the kids romp in and around the sparkling blue water.
And the kids? From the looks of things, they're having a ball, playing pool tag or -- like the Olympians they've been watching on TV -- jumping off the diving boards.
On humid summer days when the mercury rises into the 80s or even 90s, some Long Islanders cool off in a backyard oval or in-ground. Others need a bit more room to play pool games, practice their breast stroke or execute a swan dive. They flock to public pools like Forest City, where you cool down in the company of dozens, or even hundreds, of other water-lovers.
Forest City is one of the lesser-known gems among the Town of Hempstead's 23 public swimming pools. The pool entrance blends into the neighborhood of single-family homes on a winding Wantagh side street. It's a multipurpose complex with ballfields, a modern playground and a picnic area with gazebos. There's a poolside concession stand where you can buy a drink, an ice cream or a hot dog.
And at the center of it all is a 397-foot-long pool, with a 12-foot-deep diving area and a kiddie pool.
"We call it our country club," jokes Kathleen Murphy, Caitlin and Erin's mom. But that's just the way it feels with many visitors knowing each other for years. While more centrally located outdoor pools on Carman Avenue in the Salisbury section of Westbury, or the Veteran's Memorial Park Pool in East Meadow, draw hundreds of visitors from all over the Town of Hempstead on a typical day, Forest City tends to attract a local crowd. But any town resident can purchase a day pass ($3.50-$7) and use the pool.
Adene Muoio, 40, of North Bellmore, is also among the locals enjoying a leisurely pool day. She's here with three other adults and 11 children including her daughter, Sera, 7. Under a sun shelter, they've eaten a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples and chips, and now they've had enough of the water; they're going to walk to the park playground. "It's nice because everything is so small and close," Muoio says.
With the sun shining and the cool waters beckoning, it's hard to break away, but there are appointments to keep. Mary Whitaker of Wantagh and her daughter, Erin, 8, are also about to call it a day -- albeit reluctantly. "She would stay all day," Whitaker says of Erin, who takes lessons and hopes to join the swimming team next summer. But right now, there's her brother's baseball game to attend and weeks left of what feels like an endless summer by the pool. Says Whitaker: "It's the lazy days of summer."
Part of an occasional series highlighting quintessential summer experiences on Long Island.