Posted on

Charles City Park & Rec Board members discuss ‘dream’ pool

Charles City Park & Rec Board members discuss 'dream' pool
Members of the Charles City Parks and Recreation Board and others meet at Wildwood Golf Course clubhouse Thursday evening to allow for social distancing. Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson,

A combination indoor-outdoor pool with both zero-depth entry area and an area deep enough for a diving board, competition swimming lanes that can also be used for lap lanes and exercise areas, a water slide, a lazy river, a splash pad, a water playground for little kids, and plenty of shady areas, both in and out of the water.

Those are most of the main “dream” amenities of a new aquatic center based on the priorities expressed by members of the Charles City Parks and Recreation Board at its regular monthly meeting Thursday evening.

And their preference is that a new pool would be as big or bigger than the current pool, and that it would be build at the location of the current swimming pool at Lion’s Field.

Members of the board have been talking for years about eventually needing to do something to overhaul or replace the current 29-year-old city pool. The issue gathered more urgency this year.

Because the pool did not open this year due to COVID-19 concerns, the board got to walk through the empty structure at its June meeting, with Parks and Rec Director Tyler Mitchell pointing out the cracks, leaking joints, broken tiles and other deficiencies.

Mayor Dean Andrews, who is not a member of the board but regularly attends the meetings, has suggested repeatedly that the first question the board needs to answer is whether the city is looking at fixing or replacing the pool itself, or if a partnership is possible with the YMCA, the school district or with both.

At the July meeting, park board members were asked to come up with a list of priorities, which were presented and discussed Thursday night.

Mitchell said, “The YMCA board is meeting to discuss their wish list, what they want to do, and the next step is for the city and the Y to meet up and see if this is possible to work. … If it’s possible then we sit down for more serious talks.”

Andrews said the YMCA board is meeting next Tuesday and will discuss its own priorities in a new pool.

“Sometime during that week of the 24th I want to get them, you and the school together,” Andrews said.

The list devised by the park board Thursday is an “if you could have everything” list, and doesn’t consider costs or funding, but Andrews described the process as a starting point.

Board members discussed whether or not a new pool should have a diving board, with both Andrews and Mitchell saying many pools are taking them out because of liability concerns.

The board also discussed whether a new pool should have space for competitive swimming. Some members pointed out that lanes that met competitive standards could also be used for lap swimming, but not all lap lanes meet competitive requirements.

Others said the city wouldn’t need competitive swimming lanes unless the city partners with the Y or the school and one of those groups wants them.

Andrews said the school district may be less interested in just a new pool than a facility with a fitness center.

The group also briefly touched on funding, although no numbers have been offered as to a possible price. Other communities that have opened new aquatic centers in recent years have spent from a couple of million dollars to tens of millions.

Board member Dana Sullivan suggested approaching some of the growing industries in town about supporting a new aquatic center as one more way to draw new employees to the area.

Andrews said it’s often easier to find money to build something than to maintain it year to year, and he said a year-round facility would cost considerably more to operate than a summer-only pool.

Also at the meeting Thursday:

• Mitchel said the department had received 10 deer depredation tags for bow hunters to use this year to take some of the deer that have been damaging the greens at the Wildwood Golf Course, as part of a three-year agreement with the Department of Natural Resources.

The tags are only for antlerless deer (does), and more tags may be available if the board can prove additional damage, he said.

Mitchell has said a program last year to thin the deer herd damaging the golf course likely had fewer hunters interested than expected because hunters had to use their own deer tags.

Hunters who take a deer on the golf course with a depredation tag can still also hunt with their own tag as they would normally.

• Mitchell said he has been approached by a group interested in establishing a mountain bike-type trail at Westwood Park. He said the group would build the trail and maintain it, and would not cut down any large trees.

Board members agreed the group should present its ideas to the board.

• Mitchell said he is waiting to hear from the Charles City Rotary Club whether it wants to dismantle the city skatepark, which the park board has decided must come down because of its poor condition. The club would get to take the metal elements of the park fixtures for recycling to raise some funds.