DAYTON — This rural Columbia County town has resigned itself to another summer without a public pool, and public works crews are filling the disused facility with dirt to avoid hazards, but everyone involved hopes this move will be temporary.
The Dayton Community Pool has been closed since 2017 because of maintenance needs, and fixing it will cost upward of $2.5 million, according to a 2018 assessment.
But that price tag hasn’t stopped a resident group called the Friends of the Dayton Community Pool from working overtime to bring swimming back to the children, and adults, of Columbia County.
And the city crews now filling the pool, once the hot-spot for community activity through the heat of summer, with dirt as a safety precaution is not discouraging Friends, who have been working for years to find solutions.
Dianne McKinley and Deena Bell-Potter, members of Friends of the Dayton Community Pool, said in an interview with the Union-Bulletin that having a place for Dayton locals to swim is too important to let die for good.
“It’s something for everyone, all ages, to be able to come and enjoy their time,” McKinley said. “And I have grandkids. And I would like them to have to have swim team. Gosh, in the summertime, that was the highlight of (a child’s) time, just to come hang out with your friends.”
“I’m from here, and I grew up every summer here (at the pool),” she said. “I have two boys and were able to do swimming lessons and everything here. And that’s gone. I would like that back for the kids.”
The pool closed for the last time after the summer of 2017. In spring 2018, the city made the decision not to reopen the pool, and it has sat empty since.
Cracks in the concrete creating tripping hazards, and issues with the pool’s drainage system were cited as reasons to close it.
Dayton Public Works Director Ryan Paulson said an assessment in 2018 showed the cost to rehab the pool was $2.3 million, and the cost to build a new facility was $2.5 million. And those were 2018 figures. He said it would cost much more today.
So, what needs to be done to reopen the pool?
Well, a lot.
The Friends of the Dayton Community Pool are busy writing grant requests. They hope one, for $10,000, could be approved soon. The goal is for that money to be spent on the creation of three possible designs to present at a public meeting in July.
The group wants a proposal to create a Parks and Recreation district to go on the 2022 election ballot.
It would be unfunded at this time. But after it’s created, and the group has guidance on an option for the pool, the plan would be to request tax funding for the project.
In the meantime, with a big empty hole in the ground causing a safety hazard, Paulson decided it was time to fill it with dirt. However, he ensured the Friends group, as well as the U-B, that this doesn’t mean the process couldn’t be reversed to make it a pool again.
“It will be easily excavated if and when the time comes to either rehab or reconstruct the pool,” he said. “This is just the most time- and cost-effective way to mitigate a safety concern.”
In fact, Paulson is also a supporter of bringing the pool back.
“I grew up in a small town in Montana. We didn’t have a pool,” he said. “A pool is an easy way for kids to have fun, meet friends and be safe.”
The Friends of the Dayton Community Pool are asking people to participate in a survey to gauge residents’ opinions on the pool. To find it, visit the group’s Facebook page at bit.ly/friendsdaytonpool.