WESTMORLAND – Westmorland residents are likely to remember carefree summers of swimming in the city pool — summers that have not happened in the past four years due to problems at the local pool. Now a local group, Operation POOL, Prevention Offering Opportunities for Learning, is moving to renovate the Westmorland pool and bring back safe summer recreation to the community.
For 77 years, the city of Westmorland’s swimming pool and restroom facilities provided a place for swimming and recreational fun. It has been the site of activities that include swimming lessons, aerobics classes, and more, for Westmorland citizens.
But as a result of natural wear and tear over the years, as well as new building code regulations and American Disability ADA accessibility standards, the pool and restroom facility are in need of additional repairs, physical activity-friendly alterations and renovations.
Currently the pool is just there, a dry hole in the ground that has been falling into more disrepair over the past four summers. Trash has been thrown into the deep end, pipes need replacing, and the water leaks out every time the city tries to fill the pool up.
According to Mary Ann Smith, director of Westmorland Parks and Recreation, the total cost for the project is $273,839. This includes installing new water pumps, renovating the outside and inside of the pool, and fixing up the bathrooms. The pool depth currently slopes from two feet down to seven feet, making it difficult for younger kids and non-swimmers to enjoy themselves. This would be leveled off a standard four foot depth to make it more accessible for public swimming and recreational activities.
“With the health problems we have around here, our kids need to have this physical activity during the summer, and it’s a well known fact that swimming and aquatic activity is a really good, healthy living activity,” said Smith.
Westmorland has tried to combat the heat by holding water events like the Westmorland Wet Water Days in the park last summer, a community event filled with water slides, water bouncers, and more water fun.
With the lack of pool activities, the youth are turning to other methods of cooling off. This includes swimming in the nearby canals, a dangerous and illegal activity, especially for those who are not strong swimmers.
“I get reports that we have families going into the canals on Westside Main, and that just terrifies me,” said Smith, “and that why I’m trying to pick up the pace to get the funds to get this pool rebuilt.”
Smith stated that a completely new pool would cost upwards of $2 million, something that Westmorland cannot afford. Also, despite the pool’s age, the town does not wish to tear the pool down and rebuild a new one. Smith said it has too much significance to the community. The dirt that was dug out when the pool was built was later used as the foundation for the Westmorland City Hall.
The Westmorland Pool was built in 1938, thanks to the Works Progress Association (WPD) in President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
It was renovated in the 1950s and given new life after World War II. An annual “Aquacade” started and informal swimming lessons were taught by concerned community volunteers and parents. In the 1980s, it had to undergo another renovation after more wear and tear. Then in 2008, the pool once again went through renovations with the deck getting resurfaced using a $41,400 grant from Community Development Grant funds.
The city has self-funded the pool’s operation costs for 40 years and paid for all maintenance, rehabilitation, building improvements, vegetation, utilities (water, trash, electric) life guards, chemicals, etc.
Operation POOL will be sending out a letter to the community about the project. For more information and how to donate, go to Imperial Valley Community Foundation at http://www.ivcommunityfoundation.org/community-funds/westmorland/.