A swimming pool is a vital source of summer entertainment and education in small towns across the country. Children gather to while away the hot summer days and take swimming lessons. Adults gather for water aerobics. And the facility is a lively spot for friends and families to meet.
And it's no different in Wessington Springs, where a local group is undertaking the job of renovating the aging community swimming pool.
Sandy Beckman, a member of the six-person Wessington Springs Pool Task Force, said the group set about looking at renovating the facility after she took a trip to the pool with her grandchildren.
“We were trying to start a committee before this, and we couldn’t get people interested," Beckman said. "I was with my grandkids at the pool for swimming lessons, and I thought we should start a committee to renovate the pool because it was in bad shape. So we started researching what we needed to do to renovate it.”
Beckman said the current pool was built in 1974 and has served the community well through youth swimming lessons, adult exercise classes and other events. But time has taken its toll. It is estimated that of the 700,000 gallons of water used by the pool per year, 500,000 gallons of that water are lost somewhere through leaks under the deck area, which is where the plumbing is currently located.
The planned renovation would include tearing off the current decking and removing the plumbing beneath it, placing that plumbing under a grate surrounding the edges of the pool and upgrading the current baby pool. The renovations would also include an ADA accessible entry to the pool and bathroom.
Beckman said the cost of the work is estimated at around $550,000.
The task force is looking at funding options. The group has raised about $90,000 through grants, donations and fundraising events already. In addition to that, the group was recently approved for a $25,000 Matching Assets to Community Health (MATCH) Grant from the Wellmark Foundation, contingent upon securing the matching funds. They are also planning to apply for another grant through South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and soliciting donations through Wessington Springs' city website.
Beckman said now that the process is up and running, the support from the community has been strong, even despite some difficult economic times. A swimming pool is a service that can make a difference in attracting and retaining families to a rural town, she said, and if people leave town to take their kids swimming elsewhere, they will likely fill their gas tanks or buy groceries while they’re out of town, too.
Members of the community are aware of that, Beckman said, and are working to make sure those dollars stay in Wessington Springs, too.
“We have had 100 percent of the community stand behind us,” Beckman said.
If fundraising continues to be successful, the group will look to begin construction as soon as possible to help ensure the pool continues to be a source of summer recreation for everyone in the community.
“We would love to start building in the spring,” Beckman said. “It would be great to start and then open sometime next summer so the kids could be have swimming lessons.”