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Opinions Differ Over How To Rebuild Albany’s Leaking Lincoln Park Pool

When it was completed the Lincoln Park pool was one of the largest municipal pools in country and a model by which all others would be judged.
Lincoln Park was established as Albany's first public playground in 1900. The 68-acre park's centerpiece swimming pool opened July 4th, 1931.

The city of Albany is moving forward with plans for replacing the Lincoln Park Pool, now 90 years old.

Since the year began, the city of Albany has been gathering feedback as to what people would like to see the Lincoln Park pool replacement project accomplish.

Lincoln Park was established as Albany's first public playground in 1900. The 68-acre park's centerpiece swimming pool opened July 4th, 1931 and has been leaking since the day it was built, now up to 500,000 gallons of water a day. It is rife with drainage and filtration issues.

In 2018, the Park Master Plan identified the need to have the pool replaced.

In July, Dan Biggs with Western & Sampson, a landscape planning and design firm, argued that any pool design must meet current New York State Department Of Health requirements, as well as respecting the New York State Historic Preservation Office requirements for the site.

"The problems it has now, if anything is to be touched in this pool, it has to be brought to current code. There are significant cracks throughout the basin itself, leading to significant leaks. The bottom of the pool has been settling. For any of you that had been in the pool last couple of years, you can see that the deck areas are fairly uneven around the perimeter. The concrete around the front of the water body is uneven, it should be even all around if it's to be a properly balanced water facility. So that is just evidence that it has settled over time. And all that fill in the Beaver Creek, Beaver Kill Creek, has settled unevenly, leading to structural deficiencies below the pool itself. “

Biggs says the original design has made it imperative to staff at least 22 lifeguards when the pool is open in order to adequately monitor and assist swimmers. He claims it isn't feasible to reconstruct or repair the pool in its current configuration.

At the beginning of summer, Mayor Kathy Sheehan appointed a special committee of community leaders and elected officials to advise her on the new pool. According to committee member Dannielle Hille, a longtime Mansion Neighborhood resident and founder of the local non-profit One Block at a Time, certain members of the committee have been dissatisfied with Weston and Sampson's approach to designing the new pool. Hille moderated a virtual meeting earlier this month where she introduced Arizona-based Aqua Design International to the community. The company builds pools all over the globe. Public comments left during online discussions lean toward maintaining the Lincoln Park pool's current configuration. Aqua's Dave Acklin offered a "second opinion" on redoing the pool, saying it is possible to replace it with a replica of the original.

"To get into that, we'd have to do a deep dive into the state and the county health code regulations, there might be some little tweaks that we would have to make, because the health code I'm sure has evolved over the decades since the original construction was built."

Calling the design of the current pool "truly extraordinary," Acklin says he can suggest multiple ways to resolve code issues raised by Weston & Sampson.

"We have done every size and configuration of a swimming pool that you could possibly imagine. I have seen all of these over the last 40 years. So what you're trying to do isn't going to scare me. As long as long as you don't tell me that you want water to run uphill, we're going to be just fine. That's kind of my limit. As long as I can stay within the accepted laws of physics, then we're all good."

A working design going forward into 2022 is expected by November.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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