How You Can Learn to Swim for Free in Southeast Michigan

A 2021 southeast Michigan-area survey showed the cost of swim lessons was one of the most significant barriers for many residents to feel safe and enjoy the area’s recreational water spots. Metroparks knew it was time to do something about it.

“As a region, we know that many young people in our communities don’t know how to swim,” said Metroparks Chief of Marketing and Communications Danielle Mauter. “That’s a problem that can only be fixed by working together to address the many pieces of the issue. The Metroparks are forging these first partnerships as just one piece of that very big puzzle.”

Southeast Michigan summers are quintessential with water activities. Many recreational opportunities revolve around water areas, including ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, pools, water parks, and splash pads. 

“It’s critical that families feel safe around those water features so they can have those classic memories around water features,” Mauter said.

That’s why Metroparks provided funding support to establish eight partnerships with regional organizations to offer residents free swim lessons with certified instructors. Participants in several programs will also receive free swimsuits, goggles, and a swim cap. 

The partnerships include:

  • Wayne County: Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Detroit Parks and Recreation
      • Swim in the D – Brennan Pool
      • 250 participants
      • June-August
      • Register here.
  • Macomb County: Macomb County YMCA
      • Mount Clemens
      • 175 participants
      • July and August
      • 586-468-1411
  • Washtenaw County: Friends of Rutherford Pool
      • Rutherford Pool, Ypsilanti
      • 350 participants
      • July and August
      • Call 734-905-7391
  • Wayne County: Wayne County Parks
      • Chandler Park Pool
      • 120 participants
      • July and August
      • Register here
  • Oakland County: Oakland County Parks, Oakland County Sheriff PAL & Detroit Swims Aqualyfe
      • Waterford Oaks Pool
      • 30-60 participants
      • July and August
      • Registration to open on Metroparks website by July 1.
  • Oakland County: Michigan DNR – Pontiac Lake State Park & Detroit Swims Aqualyfe
      • Pontiac Lake State Park
      • 60 participants
      • July and August
      • Registration to open on Metroparks website by July 1.
  • Wayne County: Michigan DNR – Belle Isle State Park & Detroit Swims Aqualyfe
      • Belle Isle
      • 90 participants
      • July and August
      • Registration to open on Metroparks website by July 1.
  • Livingston County: Howell Schools
    • Highlander Aquatic & Fitness Center
    • 12 participants
    • August-November
    • Registration to open on Metroparks website by July 1.

Mauter said each partnership is unique, with the overarching goal of offering free swim lessons as a regional focus to continue minimizing the risk of drownings.

“When kids don’t know how to be safe near water, it increases the risk of drowning,” Mauter said. “We have all these great water amenities. It’s essential that families and kids do have that safety instruction so they don’t become part of that number.”

Mauter also highlighted some of the swimming-related results of Metroparks’ 2022 needs assessment survey, part of its five-year recreational master planning process. 

  • 50% of respondents thought the community strongly needed warm water pools for swim lessons or therapy.
  • When looking at the data specific to Wayne County, swim lessons and water fitness programs were ranked a high priority of unmet needs.

Mauter said both surveys also highlighted the need for the programs to be accessible to area residents via public transportation. Partner organizations worked to ensure families and program participants can access the pools that way.

“As a region, we knew we could come up with better solutions by working together,” Mauter said. “We couldn’t do this by ourselves. We can only do this with our valuable partners.”

More information about Metroparks can be found here



One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. Available activities include fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, winter sports and more. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history and the environment. Learn more at

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