Thursday, July 7 was an oppressively hot and muggy day, but Rosendalers and honored guests were all smiles as the long-awaited, brand-new Town Pool at the Rosendale Recreation Center was finally opened to the public. “This is a great day for Rosendale, after four years of not having a pool!” said town supervisor Jeanne Walsh as she thanked a long list of project supporters in preparation for the official ribbon-cutting. “Hopefully this one will last 100 years. This happened because this is a community that works together.”
Walsh gave a brief rundown of the history of the massive fundraising effort for the pool replacement project, whose initially projected pricetag of $1.2 million ended up rising to $1.8 million. Most of the funding came from New York State grants, supplemented by private donations, and the supervisor gave much of the credit for the project’s viability to state senator John Bonacic, who was present both for Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and for the groundbreaking “exactly a year and a day ago,” according to Walsh.
Noting that “Many people can’t afford to go on a vacation…This is their vacation,” Senator Bonacic called the pool “a community asset that has to be kept in place for generations to come.” Another government booster of the project, Ulster County comptroller Elliott Auerbach, kept his remarks very short, saying, “I’m not going to stand in the way of about two dozen kids who want to get in this pool!”
A number of those kids were members of a youth choir from the Woodcrest Bruderhof in Rifton, which has donated both money and labor to the project. The youngsters first sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and another song about swimming before they were able to plunge into the cool, sparkling water. The first one to wade in was Supervisor Walsh, and former Town Board member Ken Hassett followed, shoes off but still dressed for a business day in long pants, and waltzed Walsh around to the music of the choir. Others young and old soon followed, with Recreation Commission member Fre Atlast playfully splashing the standoffish, urging them to come in.
The previous pool — originally a farm pond that was converted to a 280,000-gallon swimming pool in the 1940s when the site was known as Sportsman’s Park — was closed down in 2012 because the gunite liner was crumbling and could no longer hold water. Realtor Brian Cafferty, who grew up nearby, reminisced about the horribly deteriorated condition of the old pool’s bottom. “They used everything from chewing gum to rubber bands” to hold it together, he said. “We used to cut our toes on paint chips.”
“I remember picking up chunks of the bottom,” recalled March Gallagher, one of the first grownups in the new pool along with her daughter Mae, 8, and her son Luc, about to turn 4. “I was glad when the supervisor closed it, because it wasn’t safe.” Gallagher was a founder of the private fundraising campaign for the pool replacement, starting with online crowdfunding via GoFundMe and eventually creating a dedicated fund through the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, where she is now the president and CEO. As a mother of small children who lives less than a five-minute walk from the pool site, Gallagher said that she was “thrilled to have this resource,” and spoke approvingly of the new layout. “It was designed with safety in mind…. I can sit there and see all my kids, age 4 to 16.”
“We used to have the two pools interconnected. Now there are two separate pools: one for kids to play around in, one for lap swimming,” noted Quinn Simek, a college student from Kingston who is back on the Rosendale Town Pool lifeguard staff for the first time since 2011. “We’re going to run it a lot like we used to run it back then. We’ve got a great staff.” Simek pointed out some of the improved features of the new pools, notably the gradual entry at one end of the kid-friendly pool, for “ease of access.” The gentle slope makes it possible for people in walkers or wheelchairs to enter and enjoy the pool, while the lap pool has a high-tech feature for handicapped accessibility: a motorized lift. Its six lanes are also equipped with diving platforms and handgrips for turning and exiting.
Opening Day for the pool was delayed until after Fourth of July weekend in order for some details of construction work to be completed, and there is still not a functioning bathhouse (although funding for bathhouse reconstruction has been secured from the New York State Rising program). Walsh told the New Paltz Times that the long dry spell preceding last weekend’s heavy rains nearly pushed the opening back even further: The nearby stream intended to be used for filling the pools had too little flow and too much turbidity, and work had not yet been completed on the filtration plant. So the supervisor had to rally a long list of local fire companies to transport water from Rosendale’s former limestone mines to the pools in tanker trucks. “It took three days. They went to the caves and filled up. But now the water looks crystal-clear…. It’s a beautiful thing!”
The Rosendale Town Pool will be open from noon to 7:30 p.m. through the rest of the summer, weather permitting. Possible early morning hours for lap-swimming only are currently under discussion. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/rosendalepool.