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Bruce Pool Will Not Open This Year

By Staff | Mar 10, 2010

The historic Bruce Pool in New Martinsville was built 68 years ago by the Works Progress Administration, but now cannot open because its drains do not meet the specifications of a federal safety act. (Photos by Amy Witschey)

Historic Bruce Pool in New Martinsville will not be in operation this summer. That was the difficult decision made by the New Martinsville Parks Commission at their March 3 meeting.

The decision is a direct result of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act that promotes the safe use of pools, spas, and hot tubs by imposing mandatory federal requirements for suction entrapment avoidance. All public pools are required to become compliant with this standard. The act was named for the seven-year-old granddaughter of former U .S. Secretary of State James Baker who tragically drowned as a result of a residential spa suction entrapment in 2002. The act went into law effect December 2008, but the government has been giving pools some time to make the conversion as long as they were moving forward on getting into compliance.

“We are vigilant about maintaining our swimming pools for the health and safety of those who visit them,” said Parks and Recreation Director Beverly Gibb. “Due to the age of the two large swimming pools and both wading pools that we have operated, this is a huge undertaking for our department, both physically and financially.”

It is difficult to predict the final expenditures due to the unknown condition of some of the underground piping. However, preliminary engineering studies show that the estimated expense to renovate both swimming pools could top $250,000. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has established a grant program with $2 million authorized for each of 2009 and 2010. Funding for the local project will come from grant monies and capital reserves.

Engineering specifications are currently being drawn up. Construction on Lewis Wetzel Pool will begin as soon as weather permits. Work is expected to be completed by the scheduled June 5 opening day.

The wading pool at Bruce Park will also not be open this year because of the drain regulations.

“We compile the data from the number of pool visitors for each operating day of the swimming season. Lewis Wetzel Pool continually has more swimmers than Bruce Pool,” said Gibb. “Therefore the Parks Commission must focus on getting the most used facility into compliance. That is the pool at Lewis Wetzel Park.”

However, the wading pools at both Bruce and Lewis Wetzel are not expected to be open this summer. The wading pools need to be completely revamped and converted over. The crumbling concrete makes it impossible for this to happen with the existing structures, said Gibb. At this time they are looking at installing a splash playground at Lewis Wetzel.

Both Gibb and members of the Park Commission have had a very difficult time in coming to this conclusion. “This is not an easy decision to make,” commented Commission Chairman Harold McClain. “I am sure we will hear responses of those that will be upset because of this, but we have made the best educated decision that we can. We are not just concerned about the patrons, this will also greatly affect the number of employees we will be hiring. We will not require as many as in previous years.”

“We’re looking at all our options,” Gibb said about the future of Bruce Pool, a unique above-ground pool built by the Works Progress Administration. She said the large pool is 68 years old and its concrete is crumbling, compromising the integrity of the structure. Also, it is not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, something that must happen if any renovation is to take place. She noted it is in the city’s favor that the pool is not on the National Historic Register, so they can have some increased options for making changes.