My wife and I moved to New Paltz in August of 1966 with our oldest child, who was three months old at the time. At that time, the Moriello Pool was situated at the lower parking lot; it was for private persons only. Shortly after, in 1972, a new pool was constructed, which is the present-day Moriello Pool, and it was initially a private pool as well. But with the tenor of the times, plus local political input, in approximately the early 1980s, it became a pool open to the public for an annual registration fee.
During the late 70s and early 80s, My wife and I started the New Paltz Swim team Association; some of the committee members I vividly recall, but have been unable to locate our recording secretary from that era. Our first full-time enrollment was 35 swimmers, comprising all age brackets! Needless to say, we did not fare well for a number of years at the local meets.
The New Paltz Swim Team Association became the ‘New Paltz Seahawks’ in 1982 when they joined the DUSO league (Dutchess and Ulster swim team organizations). The team started with 35 swimmers of all ages and has grown. By the early 1990s, we had 100 swimmers in four main brackets — butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and free style. There are eight meets a year with a championship meet the first Saturday in August at different county pools throughout the DUSO League. A typical meet lasts approximately four-and-a-half hours and each swimmer swims usually three events. The championship meet usually last ten to eleven hours. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, we began climbing the ranks and we won our first title in 2003 or 2005?
The ensuing years witnessed nine individual State champions, and eight league championships. Nineteen swimmers have placed in the top eight categories. Thirty swimmers were in the New York State championships, one swimmer made the Olympic trials and one swimmer made the Puerto Rico national team. With the exception of one, all these swimmers learned to swim at Moriello Pool on the Seahawks. Our enrollment over the years — from 2007-2012 with over 150 swimmers and from 2011 to 2016 we have had over 200 swimmers per year. The increase in the number of swimmers is a testimony to the success of the Seahawks at Moriello Pool and Moriello Pool only — not the college pool at SUNY nor the Ulster County Pool. (The county pool is for all county residents). The scheduling of our swim team practices and meets there conflict with those residents from the entire county who have no interest in the Seahawks and wish not to be interfered with their attending the pool at scheduled times; likewise for the college pool, with their scheduled activities and alumni personnel. One might say the Seahawks and Moriello Pool are one and the same since 1980/82.
The Seahawks pay salaries for four full-time coaches ‘through registration fees, not from the town coffers. Lifeguards are otherwise; there are approximately 24 full time and 21 part-time guards for the summer session, which is Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. They are reimbursed through the town coffers (but will be beginning to pay for some of their related costs) and provide three months of employment for high school students from New Paltz Central Schools. Since 1980, thousands of swimmers have come through the New Paltz Seahawks swim program; hundreds of these swimmers have returned with their children to relive those days of yester-year and to ensure their offspring the same benefits from this program they received. Over the years, the Seahawks have formed a bond with the community; it has its own culture, its own traditions — it has been building strong, dedicated young people to the thrill of competition and this was at Moriello Pool. This was and is the present.
Now let’s look at the future. The future has some problems pending. Last year saw the pool opening delayed until July 1, 30 days beyond the traditional opening date of Memorial Day weekend, due to a problem with the liner. Because of this, we lost 50 registrants with the subsequent loss of revenue and approximately 50-plus swimmers. However, the liner was given a temporary repair at the last moment and the Moriello Pool and the swim team were in full operation by July 1. We still won the championship in August. In spite of this temporary repair job, the pool now faces a major facelift requiring a new liner. How this will impact the 2017 swim team is not clear at this time. The possibility of not having a program at Moriello Pool is a viable one indeed. This means the pool will be closed for this repair. (It would have been nice if we could have had this addressed in the fall when the weather was conducive for such an operation.) And if closed, the lifeguards, part time and full time, as well as the full-time coaches, are out of a job. This is the future of Moriello Pool at this time.
I exhort the town and village officials to join forces and strive forth united to act promptly and efficiently to maintain the culture and the tradition of the Moriello Pool and the Seahawks. I also exhort our present road superintendents to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and join with the officials to make 2017, the and the years after, this bedrock of community service available for all of its citizens. And, most important of all, I exhort the citizens of New Paltz to dialogue with our elected officials to make sure this repair project is fully implemented to ensure a continuation of the Seahawks at Moriello Pool…30-plus years of swim team involvement at this pool must not be placed in jeopardy for any reason — political or otherwise. Therefore, let us all strive forward to achieve this goal.
Robert LaPolt, Past President
New Paltz Swim Team Association