The central Catskills have plenty of ponds, lakes, and rivers for summertime swimming. But for people who like to swim for exercise, not just to cool off, the options are limited during the colder months of the year. Swimmers can go to the YMCAs in Kingston and New Paltz or the athletic center at Bard College, but to the west, there have been no indoor public pools — until this June’s opening of the Catskill Recreation Center (CRC) in the Delaware County town of Arkville, 14 miles west of Phoenicia.
The CRC was built through a donation from Kingdon Gould, Jr., a member of the wealthy Gould family, who have maintained a country home in the region for generations. Established as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, the center is meant to be entirely self-supporting within three years and is not paid for by taxes but charges reasonable membership fees. The $5 million facility includes a 24,000-square-foot building that houses a six-lane swimming pool by United Pools, with handicapped access and an exercise room equipped with high-tech workout machines.
Phoenicia resident Molly Kilb began to swim regularly at the pool in July while recovering from an ankle injury. “I thought it would be good rehab,” she recalled. “The lifeguards and the staff were so welcoming to an injured 60-year-old woman — I couldn’t stop going. Everyone’s really supportive, the place is spotless, and the hours are good.” Kilb likes to arrive when the facility is opening, at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. on weekends. There are usually five to ten other swimmers on hand at that time, some doing laps, others treading water in the cardio pool.
At 12:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, the pool room was nearly empty, with one senior man swimming laps as a lifeguard looked on. CEO Dana Lamsal pointed out the zero depth entry area alongside the lap pool, where small fountains kept water circulating over the gently sloping floor. “It’s like a beach or waterfront,” she explained. “It’s for people who have trouble getting in and out. They can roll in on a wheelchair and then start to swim. At the deep end, it connects to the main pool.”
In addition to separate locker rooms for men and women, there’s a small locker room designed for families and for individuals with disabilities.
The water is heated to approximately 83 degrees, with help from a geothermal system, one of several environmentally friendly features of the building. Lamsal keeps three lifeguards available at all times and is looking to hire more. “I always need lifeguards,” she said. “I’m a certified lifeguard instructor, so I can certify them here.”
A schedule specifies open swim periods for children and families, lap swim periods, and swimming lessons. Weekly classes are offered in water aerobics and a workout Lamsal invented, called Cardio Splash. “It’s like water aerobics on steroids,” she explained. “We use the water for resistance, running and jumping through the water.”
Classes in Pilates, kickboxing, and yoga are held in a mat-covered space at one end of the gym, beyond the thicket of recumbent and upright bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, Chairmasters. The machines are equipped with touchscreen TVs that get 200 channels, and they have ports for stick drives so users can record and take home their exercise data. Riders of the stationary bikes may select views of virtual rides through the German countryside, the redwood forests of California, or downtown Chicago. Pre-owned weightlifting and free-weight equipment was donated by a gym in Baltimore.
Lamsal showed off an electrical room that contains equipment for drawing energy from solar panels on the roof. Another green measure is the water dispenser designed for filling bottles and counting the number of plastic bottles that have been eliminated through the refills. “We want to be environmental stewards,” she remarked.
Hopes for a Little League field
Lamsal, though not strictly a local, spent summers in the area and is related to Olivebridge families, including the Quicks and the Burkhardts. Her father was a YMCA camp director, and she earned a degree in recreation management. “My passion is aquatics,” she said.
With the facility only four months old, Lamsal is still phasing in new programs. A room near the reception desk has an attached bathroom and is destined to be a child-watching space so parents can bring the kids along when they work out, hopefully starting some time this fall. Some members have inquired about the possibility of installing a sauna or steam room at the facility, but Lamsal said, “When we have the money, I’d put in a Little League field first.” Plans call for gradually developing the six surrounding acres for outdoor recreation. The building was also designed to allow for a future extension that could house tennis courts or a hockey rink.
Fundraising for maintaining the facility has barely begun. Gould has promised to make up any budget shortfalls until 2017, but at that point, the CRC will be on its own financially. “We had a Labor Day yard sale,” said Lamsal, “and we’re raising money to put up mirrors in the gym. People can donate to the fund, or they can donate actual mirrors.”
The basic monthly membership fee is $30 for an adult, with discounts for seniors and youth, packages for couples and families, and a free month included in a year-long membership paid in advance. Day use costs $10 for an adult, $5 for a child. Lamsal emphasized that although the center is “not here to make money but purely to serve the neighborhood,” it is not supported by taxes. “It’s up to us to secure our future.”++
The Catskill Recreation Center is located at 651 County Highway 38, Arkville. For more information, or to apply for a job as a lifeguard, see https://www.catskillrecreationcenter.org or call 845-586-6250.