Hampstead set to raze run-down community pool

Town closed facility in '03 due to maintenance costs

August 14, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Hampstead residents can take one last look at the town pool today. The wrecking crew arrives early tomorrow, and by day's end, the bathhouse, pool and wading area will be turned to rubble.

The pool is a far cry from its heyday as a summer gathering ground. Closed for the past two seasons, its stagnant water attracts only mosquitoes.

Children used to walk to the pool on Sugar Maple Court, within a cluster of subdivisions, and swim away a summer afternoon with their friends. They have missed it most.

"I would go there and just hang out," said Zachary Buchman, 14. "My younger sister really liked the playground, too."

The town officials who grappled with how to pay for costly repairs on a losing proposition said they had no choice but to abandon the facility that has served the town of about 6,000 for more than 30 years. They closed the pool after the 2003 season and voted this spring to raze it.

"Any time a town loses a recreational resource, it is disappointing," Councilman Ron Schroers said. "I would not say `no' to another pool in the future, but this one was so worn out that it would cost thousands to get it up and running, and there was no guarantee that it wouldn't cost more money next season."

The pool served only about 100 residents, who bought family memberships for $180 a year. It seemed inequitable to ask everyone in town to continue paying for it, officials said.

Debbie Carswell, a swimming instructor at the pool for several years, said, "Had the town kept up with repairs all along, they might not have had to take one big hit. It was managed well."

Many residents didn't know the pool existed, she said.

"Had they advertised more, maybe they could have gotten the membership they needed to keep it open and make it profitable," Carswell said.

Despite steady attendance - at times 400 people - the facility did not meet its operating costs for the past several years, town officials said. Demolition seemed preferable to paying nearly $200,000 in repairs and burdening taxpayers with a $20,000 loss annually.

Ralph Wisner, the demolition contractor, had hoped to begin at dawn tomorrow to beat the heat, but thought better of it when he realized the pool was surrounded by homes. He pushed demolition to 8 a.m.

"I will be there with bells on," Wisner said. "But it's right smack in a neighborhood, so I will be as quiet as I can be."

He is unsure how long the work will take. Wisner will tackle the 1,600-square-foot bathhouse first, hoping its concrete floor does not give him too much trouble. The pool will present more difficulties, he said.

"The pool walls are almost a foot thick, and there is a lot of steel reinforcing it," he said. "I may have to put a jackhammer on the end of my excavator."

Town officials said that by next year the few acres that were once a popular pool might be a peaceful neighborhood park.

Kristen Benjamin, who moved to Sugar Maple Court last year, has never seen the pool open and won't miss it.

"I am glad to see it go," she said. "Right now it is just standing water collecting mosquitoes."

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