THROWBACK THURSDAY: History of Wallingford’s Community Pool includes early days as muddy swimming hole

THROWBACK THURSDAY: History of Wallingford’s Community Pool includes early days as muddy swimming hole

WALLINGFORD — Community Pool is enduring another period of transition.

Attendance is down since 2010, and maintenance costs for the 7.1-acre property continue to grow. The Town Council recently heard a presentation about a proposed renovation project to save the pool, but hurdles remain before the plan becomes a reality.

About 60 years ago, the massive swimming pool on North Main Street Extension underwent a similar transition, when the swimming hole, with a future as cloudy as its water, was renovated into reportedly the largest asphalt swimming pool in the world.

According to a pamphlet in the Record-Journal archives, Community Pool was also struggling to maintain its allure in 1958. Attendance had dropped significantly over a three-year period as the muddy swimming hole continued to experience a buildup of silt from a brook near the then-International Silver Co. plant.

The swimming hole was originally established to divert water from the brook, but silt from the brook continued to accumulate, along with frustration from swimmers who emerged covered in mud.

Things came to a head in 1958 when a child went into the water on his own and was presumed to be drowning. Other swimmers combed away for the child who eventually resurfaced safely.

According to the pamphlet, the Wallingford Lions Club attempted to raise money to construct a swimming pool for the community, but funds fell well short. Town engineer Gerald W. Dabbs and fellow engineer Robert B. McKeagney came up with a plan to pave the swimming hole with asphalt for $39,000, significantly less than the $100,000 that would have been needed to construct a more conventional pool.

Over 500 cubic yards of silt had to be removed before a gravel and stone base were laid down, followed by a three-inch layer of asphalt. Drain pipes, filters and links to the town’s water line were also installed during the project that matched the estimated budget costs.

The result of the project was a “pool” with 64,000 square feet of surface area. The pool was 320 feet long, with depths ranging from under a foot to 9 feet, 6 inches in the diving pool area. The water was crystal clear, save for some leftover silt that made its way in from the brook, past the filtering chambers that were installed.

The difference was night and day, and the clarity of the water came in handy just after the pool reopened, when yet another drowning scare occurred when a young girl fell into the deep part of the pool. Unlike the false-drowning report just before the pool’s makeover, swimmers were able to spot the girl in the water immediately, and she was promptly rescued.

Almost six decades later, the pool’s future is in flux again, but residents and members of the Town Council are working to keep it alive. A “Save our Pool” Facebook group has been created, and plans for another major makeover include turning the property into a multi-use park that will boast a playground, sand volleyball court, concession stand and picnic area.

The project would require an estimated $4.5 million to $6 million in funding, a far cry from the $39,000 it took to save the pool back in the late 1950s.
Twitter: @ryanchichester1


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