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Vol. LXII, No. 24
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
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Princeton’s “Leisure Vision” Includes Major Overhaul of Swimming Pool

Ellen Gilbert

Director Jack Roberts recently described the results of a “capital inventory of perceived needs” conducted to determine the two Princetons’ priorities for a “leisure vision” of the future.

Thirty-six advocacy groups, two public forums, and the services of an outside consultant confirmed what the Princeton Recreation Department pretty much already knew, saId Mr. Roberts. “The community pool is high on everyone’s list. It’s a core value of the town.”

The invitingly clear water of the current main pool at the Community Park complex notwithstanding, it appears to be time for a major overhaul. At the overripe age of 41, the concrete surrounding it is fatigued, the lattice work supporting the aerie overlooking the pool (home of “may I have your attention, please”) needs shoring up, and the locker rooms’ wooden walls are corroding. “It was a wonderful design in the 1960s,” mused Mr. Roberts, but it’s undergone “extensive weathering.”

Pipes near the kiddie pool have already broken under the concrete, necessitating opening up and repaving the walkway for repairs. “It’s a miracle nothing’s broken under the main pool,” said Mr. Roberts. Coping blocks (those rectangular concrete slabs surrounding the pool where water can run off) are crumbling and hard to replace; the lip of the pool is decomposing, as are the walls of both the swimming pool and the diving well. (Witness the patchwork on the sides of the latter.) A recent “pool audit” revealed that, although the pool has been well maintained, it has exceeded its life expectancy, and has the “band aids and battle scars” to show for it.

The constant need for repairs on the aging complex is not the only argument for a new pool, noted the director, who has been with the department for 38 years. A “more nuanced” facility, located at the same site, would include a kiddie pool with a “zero-depth entry” (no high edge for little ones to trip over as they get in); new bathrooms and “more efficient, better equipped” locker rooms with family changing areas; an enlarged concession; an updated first-aid room; more out-of-the-sun seating; and “more creative use” of the space between the three pools. Lap swimmers will be glad to know that there will still be 50 meter lanes, although there may not be eight of them, as there are now. The new model will, according to Mr. Roberts, reflect the multiple uses to which the pool is increasingly put each year. It is unclear at this point whether or not additional features will require more staffing.

The “spray ground” (à la Sesame Place) would offer cool spritzes for overheated toddlers and their parents using recycled water that automatically shuts off when not in use. Another technological advance in pool fun, the “lazy river,” is also a possibility for the large pool. Beyond the pool complex, the Mary Moss playground wading pool near John Street is another “spray ground” contender, according to Mr. Roberts.

Finding Support

A 270-page binder reflects the considerable effort, including demographic analyses and surveys, that has gone into the Recreation Department’s master plan. Mr. Roberts is happy to report that, so far, a $340,000 “sink fund” created by pool profits over recent years has paid for the planning efforts that went into the master plan he hopes to present to the Borough and Township this summer. Tax payers’ dollars, however, will eventually have to come into play.

“Both governments know it’s on the radar,” said Mr. Roberts, though he’s also looking at alternative funding possibilities. (Another weighty tome in his office is from a fund-raising workshop he recently attended.) Some pieces of the current pool site may be salvageable; Mr. Roberts thinks that both the shell of the diving pool and diving board stands can be rescued. There is still much to be done, however, and the practice of naming things after local heroes may have to go by the wayside, as funds for a refurbished pool complex are needed.

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