MURRAY — During last week’s meeting of the Murray-Calloway County Park Board which included a deep discussion about the plight of the Murray-Calloway County Pool at Central Park, it appears that, as if it was possible, something new developed.
In all of the talk for the past several years about how to address the problems that have now led to the closing of the facility for the 2021 season, one idea has, perhaps surprisingly, managed to not find its way to the proverbial front burner. And Park Board Chairman Jason Lovett hit on it during last week’s meeting that happened mere feet from the empty, debris-filled, largest of the three pools that comprise the complex.
“What are things (the community) wants to see at a pool? That’s never really been discussed,” Lovett said, acknowledging that Murray-Calloway County Parks and Recreation did ask for and paid about $12,000 for a study by a Wisconsin firm, Water Technology Inc., of the existing facility in 2019.
That study was intended to identify problems, such as wear and tear, water leakage, etc., as well as how much it would cost to renovate or replace the facility. It did not really deal with what types of features may be included.
“I hate to spend that kind of money (for perhaps another study of the facility) but, on the other hand, I’d hate to spend $5 million potentially and not really know what the public wants either,” Lovett said.
Discussion turned to developments in nearby Paducah, where, after a long and, at times, frustrating journey, it appears that city has decided to scrap constructing a new state-of-the-art aquatic center that had as much as $20 million invested in it. This comes after the city had spent about $700,000 looking into the project.
However, Lovett focused on what had been done in the early stages of that project.
“Theirs involved public input, where people talked about features they might want to see added,” he said.
“Down here, do you want to see a lazy river? We’ve still got a big slide that came from (the former Camp WOW in Murray). Obviously, if you want exactly what we’ve got here, it’s not going to be as much (to renovate/replace the facility) as if you add features, but I think if you look at what the public wants, within reason, you might be able to start there.”
Conversation eventually began turning to the idea of, if the public was persuaded to give its ideas on what kind of features it wanted to see, that could lead to donors being persuaded to act. At this point, the board is not in any position to pursue a high-dollar project like this by itself because it does not have the funds available.
It also, as stipulated by its bylaws, is forbidden from going in debt in an attempt to tackle such an undertaking.
In the past, members of the public have not been too prevalent in meetings of the board in which pool matters were on the agenda. There were five people, though, who came to this meeting, three of whom spoke.
One of the most vocal was Chanel Schwenck of Almo, who told of what she has seen in the past year while taking her children to nearby Paris, Tennessee.
“They have three water slides and two diving boards and it’s packed all of the time,” Schwenck said of the Paris facility that did remain open in 2020 while the Murray pool was closed due to COVID-19 protocols. A few weeks ago, Parks and Recreation announced that the pool would remain closed, this time due to a lack of funding.
“I don’t think the public needs a huge display or anything fancy. I mean, half of the time, the slide here didn’t work and that was frustrating. The diving board, on the other hand, was always well used and having the kiddie pool and medium pool was good too (Murray has three pools at the facility, the largest of which is an L-shaped pool). But I don’t think we need any kind of aquatics center. This is Murray, Kentucky. We’re small and I think we just need some place to swim.”
With that, the board approved a motion for representatives to go to Paris and examine that facility and to report their findings in a later meeting. And while board members acknowledged that this does not address costs, perhaps the fact that ideas such as design and features are finding their way to the forefront for a change may start changing the narrative.
“Maybe we can get something out informally (perhaps on social media) and that could generate some interest and people could contribute ideas,” said board member Holly Bloodworth.
‘I think we’re going to have to decide on what we need and what we want, then we have to look at financing, get to our bank,” said Murray City Councilman Burton Young. “Then we have to really get in there and make a push on this. I know the money is there (in the community), but there hasn’t been a real organized push, mostly because we don’t have a plan on what’s going to happen with it. There are so many options out there.”