A brand new state-of-the-art outdoor public pool beckons swimmers in a western Massachusetts city that was forced to close the majority of its pools when hazardous PCBs were discovered.
A new pool was constructed at Ray Ash Park in Chicopee at the site of the old pool, which was closed along with two others for the past two summers, after PCBs were found in the paint, caulk, and cement of the pools that were built in the 1960s.
Following a long debate over whether to leave all the pools permanently closed, undertake repairs, or rebuild, the decision was made to construct the new pool at Ash Park for what turned out to be a price tag of $1.8 million.
Mayor Richard Kos said it was worth the expense.
"Look at the whole setting. You can't wait for a day when its 95 and listen to the noise you'll hear from kids splashing and yelling," said Kos.
City and state officials gathered to cut a ribbon at the new pool as workers put the finishing touches on the bathhouse ahead of the scheduled opening to the public on Saturday.
A grant from a state parks’ program paid for about a quarter of the construction costs.
"All things came together and now we are proud to put back together our parks and playground recreation with swimming being a very important part," said Kos.
Carolyn Porter, Chicopee’s Parks and Recreation Superintendent, said the city will operate two outdoor pools this summer, and there is a third in Chicopee that is owned and operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The pool at Rivers Park, which was the only one of the city’s pools not contaminated by PCBs, has a large crack in the concrete that is causing a serious leak. It is scheduled to be repaired and open for swimming by July 4th.
There are no plans currently to repair or replace the other two closed pools, according to Porter.
" It would be a challenge to justify the need for another full-size pool in this city," said Porter.
Porter predicts the new pool at Ash Park will be a magnet for people of all ages and swimming abilities. It features what is known as a beach entrance, where the floor of the pool gently slopes from the deck into the deeper water.
"The accessibility of this pool and the intergenerational nature of the pool is one amazing feature,"said Porter.
Watching the ribbon cutting from the outside of the pool’s chain-link fence, neighborhood resident Diane Lyons-Frasco said she’s looking forward to using the pool.
"It is really nice they've opened it. It is a great location," she said, adding " I'm a swimmer, so I am looking forward to it."
The pool is open to Chicopee city residents for a $2 daily pass, and $3 for non-residents.