Residents attending the Nov. 26 town board meeting shared anecdotes about how much the dive pool meant to them. Town of Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM — More than a dozen Bethlehem residents appeared before the Town Board during its Nov. 26 meeting to mostly voice their support for saving the dive pool, either by repairing the original or having a replacement one.
The town has been considering two options — a new replacement dive pool or a new double-slide pool — as the original dive pool, built in 1973, is beyond repair.
The Town Board also voted to approve more design work on both pool options in order to put them out to bid. After the public comment period, Jason Gallo, the town’s Parks and Recreation administrator, noted that the double-slide pool would need two lifeguards, unlike how a dive pool needs just one, and anyone over 48 inches, or four feet, can use it.
“I think that we should keep the diving pool because some kids want to learn how to dive and they can get really good at it and swimming is really good for your health,” said Joe, a young boy whose comments induced applause from the public. “And if you dive and some people want to learn how to swim and dive, that can be really useful. Sometimes when you want to show off since you might know how to dive, you might want to do that. And that’s all I have to say.”
Applause also ensued when a young girl named Lilly chimed in, “All I want to say is I want to dive and I’ve never dived. So next year, if the diving [pool] ever comes back, I want to try to dive.”
Adults also shared their perspectives. “I’m a staunch supporter of the dive board option; I don’t think you have that anywhere else,” said Delmar resident Mary Witting. “I do think this is a great opportunity for our children and for our future. I don’t think slides offer that opportunity.”
Resident James McGaughan said he had expected the original dive pool to repaired regardless of the cost since it had been a popular attraction for more than four decades.
He also brought up how the town had already gauged public input last summer.
“We already did a survey,” he said. “So I hear a lot about ‘Let’s do a new survey, let’s get new evidence.’ In the academic world, we call this p-hacking where you constantly change parameters until you get the answer you want. You already did your survey and you found out that 68 percent of the town wants to rebuild it at any cost.”
McGaughan was referring to a free online 10-question dive pool-related survey that was taken by 1,230 residents this past summer.
The results showed that 826 residents, or 68 percent, said they believe the dive pool should be repaired regardless of the cost.
Also, 876 people, or 72 percent, said they would still visit the pool complex if the dive pool was no longer part of it.
Furthermore, 745 people, or 62 percent, said they would prefer a slide pool if the town decides not to rebuild the dive pool.
“As we stand here today, we already lost one summer,” McGaughan continued, referencing how the original dive pool was closed this past summer. “We’re looking at potentially losing another summer and I think instead of taking a whole bunch of time, I think it’s time to make a decision and move forward.”
In contrast, one resident, Emily Field, was the only one who did not support a dive pool moving forward. Field, a mother of three young children, said that she initially understood why other residents feel nostalgic about the dive pool and prefer retaining it for the future.
She also brought up that she first learned to swim and dive at the town’s pool complex more than 30 years ago, and has made new memories there again when her young son dared her to go off the high diving board two summers ago. However, she said her middle child, aged five with special needs, is not able to swim in a pool like her son.
“It may be a number of years before she will learn that skill,” Field said. “A slide option would be fun for all of us. Ask your kids, what do they want? … We are extremely lucky to live in this community and have all these wonderful opportunities. But just because something has always been, doesn’t mean it always needs to be.”
Prior to the meeting, the dive pool situation had already been on the public’s mind as 1,857 people signed an online petition called “Save the Bethlehem Town Park Dive Pool” from Nov. 19 to 22.
Resident Stephanie Dwyer started the petition and said, “We’re telling you that it’s important to us. Why change something that’s worked since it opened? People want their voices to be heard.”
Her petition closed when Town Supervisor David VanLuven announced on Friday, Nov. 22 that the Town Board will use the next two months to continue discussing with the public about how to move forward with the dive pool situation.