Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Grieving for a Pool

Places, like people, become important in our lives.  Yesterday, I published a post about how I have been feeling homesick for a hotel. Today, I am in mourning. Not for the first time, but much more profoundly than before, I am lamenting the loss of a pool. I know that every parent who's ever had a child on a swim team is certain to understand why I am grieving.

My children were born in Ohio, and their early years were spent there.  We belonged to a club with an outdoor pool, where we spent a multitude of happy summer hours.  Although there were some earlier swimming lessons at a YMCA, it is this pool my daughter remembers as the place she began to love to swim.

On a visit to Ohio years later, we stopped in to “see the pool.” To our horror, we found the club to be in disrepair.  There were broken-down buildings and many symptoms indicating that it had not been used for recreation for quite some time.  



The pool was fenced - but beyond the padlocked gate it was visible with brackish sludge and a foundation that was clearly cracked. Despite the fact that there were no longer any reasons for us to ever swim in that pool, I felt sad. My daughter cried.

This past Monday, even before I saw it on Facebook, I learned of a major disappointment. (Bad news travels fast.)

The pool where my family (and countless others) spent ten-thousand-plus swim team-related hours is now closed.  Permanently. Reading the news was like reading the obituary of an old friend.  This time, it was not just my daughter who shed some tears.



The full article mentioned in this Facebook post can be read by clicking here

It's not like we hadn't seen it coming.  The college has kept the pool open in recent years simply to meet a community need, without much college use of it at all.  We have been warned for quite some time that if any needed repairs became too expensive, the college would not be able to make them.  And now that day has come.  

Sadly, as of yet there is no plan in place to replace this pool, the only indoor one of its size in Helena. Pools large enough to host competitive swim meets and swim team practices do not come cheap. A number of committees have formed over the years, and discussed the need for a new aquatic center. Unfortunately, no viable plan has ever been established. Yet, this community truly needs such a facility. 

Helena is home to many swimmers.  These include high school teams that have won Montana State Championships, a dedicated group of Master's and Triathlon swimmers, and a swim team club (established in 1973) of record-breaking Age-Group swimmers - a good many of whom have gone on to swim for college teams.


The loss of this pool will be felt deeply by people other than competitive swimmers as well. It has hosted a full and busy program of swimming lessons throughout each summer.  Montana is a place with many well-used lakes and rivers. Every child here should have the lifesaving opportunity to learn how to swim. It will be a challenge now for the outdoor city pool and smaller facilities to provide enough swimming lessons, in addition to those they already offer, to absorb the necessary need.

I could list many other reasons why we need to replace this pool, but it would not be of major interest to most readers of this blog.  It is my hope that it won't be long before Helena makes it a priority to build another one. In the meantime, I hope we figure out how to meet the practice needs of the competitive swimmers in this community, and keep their goals and hopes alive. 


Today, all that I can do is grieve.  It feels like we should hold a Vigil or a memorial service. Pay our respects to an old friend.  Pull out and admire all the memorabilia and team trophies that have been stored over the years; souvenirs of achievements and friendships created by time spent at the Carroll College pool. 

I want to give thanks to Carroll College, for the years they maintained this place where my own children became strong swimmers and developed the strength of character I recently wrote about. Without her “home away from home” (the Carroll College pool), my daughter's dream of attaining a scholarship and swimming on a college team would not have come true. It saddens me greatly that the children and teenagers of Helena now no longer have this particular means with which to fulfill their own dreams.

Farewell, Carrol College Pool. You will be missed - even more than many people yet realize.


It's a long shot, but because I never know who might read this blog, and you never know until you ask ...
Is anyone interested in financing or building a competition pool in Helena, Montana?

Has your community ever faced a similar challenge?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

14 comments :

  1. I hope the pool is able to be build and come to fruition...

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  2. I'm so sorry to hear about this! Knowing how to swim is such a valuable skill and it's so sad that your community pool is closing. Our community pool is at the high school, and it's getting pretty old and needs some repairs. Hopefully it will stay open. A nearby town recently built a huge aquatic center (where Districts were held this year) and it cost 38 million dollars! I hope your town finds a way to get a new pool.

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    1. The price tag is the problem. Pools are not only expensive to build but to maintain. But the payoffs are priceless for everyone ... Even a non-swimmer could some day be saved by a lifeguard who took swimming lessons in a pool.

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  3. You have got to be kidding! This is just so short sighted. People need to learn to swim. Swimmers need to practice. Knock this one down and where will they do this? It's mind boggling. The pool where I learned to swim was built for the Empire games which I believe was a precursor for the Commonwealth games. It was on the UBC campus. Later a new pool replaced it but they kept it running for years. Last year I was saddened to see it in the shape that you described. Padlocked and neglected. I couldn't help but think of the countless memories that were associated with that facility. I'm sorry Susan. I hope someone heeds your question.

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    1. So sorry to hear that you have grieved a pool as well - it sounds like the UBC campus pool was wonderful in its day.

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  4. I am so very sorry.
    Of course you are grieving. I hope, so much, that someone is able to find a way to get a competiton pool back into Helena. They are such a resource for so many reasons.

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    1. Having those kind words from half a world away means a lot. Hopefully people here are having the same thoughts!

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  5. Our kids grew up in the pool. We had to haul them into the neaby city to do it. Only after they were all grown and married with kids of their own did our community get a pool. But I think it would be even harder to go from have to have-not. I feel your pain.

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    1. The problem for us with having to commute a pool, (it would be an hour+) is the hours that swim team kids practice. During high school season, my daughter's team was in the water at 5:30 am every morning before school, and back at the pool for a few hours every afternoon. The YMCA is offering space for our club team (for now) but when the high school team resumes practice in the fall, it is unlikely there will be space for all.

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  6. I have had a love for swimming for many, many years and now it is a huge asset to me with my Felty's Syndrome. Water for me is often the only escape that I have from the pain and inflammation in my joints. It is the one place I can go where there is no pain and I really feel like myself. It's a shame that this pool will be closing and that the children will miss out on the opportunities that swimming can give them. I hope that somebody can step in and help out the people of Helena!

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    1. Glad to hear that swimming offers you some relief Rena. We do have a club with a warm-water pool where people with arthritis do aerobics. Glad we still at least have that!

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  7. so sorry to hear about the pool. The competition level and interest in swimming in Helena is high and it will be missed :(

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    1. Really, really hoping Ish, that using the limited space in other facilities, competitive swimming can survive in Helena until another pool is built.

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Many thanks to everyone who leaves a comment here!