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NMP&R Reveals Plan For Bruce Park

By Staff | Feb 23, 2011

Members of the New Martinsville Parks and Recreation Commission and architectural consultants Gabe Hays, Eric Barto, and Gus Kayafas stand with the scaled map of the proposed Bruce Park Preliminary Master Plan. Pictured from left are Mayor Lucille Blum, Harold McClain, Bruce Crawford, Jodie Michael, Parks and Recreation Director Beverly Gibb, Hays, Barto, Kayafas, and Dave Haudenschilt.

The New Martinsville Parks and Recreation Commission held a stakeholder’s meeting on Feb. 17 at the Lincoln Theater on Main Street to meet with leaders of the community and share the commission’s present proposal for Bruce Park’s renovation. Following the news that Bruce Park’s iconic above-ground pool could not be used as-is due to the enaction of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, the commission began looking for feasible options. They hired architectural consultants Constantine “Gus” Kayafas of Kayafas Architects in Wheeling, and Wm. Gabriel Hays and Eric Barto of Hays Landscape Architecture Studio, Ltd. to put together a master plan for Bruce Park and presented the plan to those invited to Thursday night’s gathering.

Parks and Recreation Director Beverly Gibb began the meeting by getting the group up to speed on the pool’s present condition and explaining how the proposed plan came to be. She stated that bringing the pool up to code would not be an easy or affordable fix and reiterated the town couldn’t afford to operate two public pools. Gibb shared her deep discouragement over the possible loss of the pool, but was soon inspired to look at the pool in a different way. “Why don’t we look at using the existing pool for an alternative use?” she asked herself. With that in mind, the commission formed a survey to find out what the public wanted most in the city’s parks. Particularly, surveys were sent to the city’s elementary and high school students for consideration. Gibb stated the number one request was an ice skating rink, followed by an indoor basketball facility, a dog park, spray or splash ground, and batting cages.

Regarding Bruce Pool, the consultants propose turning the top level into a wading spray and splash pool by allowing only four-to-six-inches of water to lay. Water recreation would be enhanced with the installation of various spray equipment throughout the deck area. This area would not require life-guarding, and a portion of the deck is planned as a sunning area while another section is laid out with a large tent-like structure for shade.

The consultants haven’t forgotten about the community’s number one request. During the winter months the pool deck could be transformed into an ice skating rink, weather permitted. It was noted that should the funds be available, the ice rink could be sustained all season-long with a refrigeration system.

The lower level of the pool would house the existing, but improved, restroom and locker areas, and an elevator and concession area would comprise the entrance. In the middle of the lower section would be an indoor/outdoor pavilion of sorts, divided into rental spaces for sheltered picnicking.

Notable additions to the park itself include improved parking areas, more attractive and noticeable entry signs, better walking access throughout the grounds, new shelters, benches, and lights. There are also proposed improvements to the playground by incorporating more natural elements into open, but divided, play areas complete with new equipment.

They also plan to add a gazebo at the north entrance of the park, and eliminate the shuffle board area to create a long grassy area for touch football, baseball warm-ups, or frisbee. On the south end of the park renovations include the addition of a multi-purpose court, horse-shoe pitch area, and removing the baby pool to install coin-operated batting cages in its place.

The consultants propose giving the miniature golf course a make-over by rebuilding it as an “adventure golf” course, in the hopes of making miniature golf a more sought-out attraction. Such upgrades would include a water stream weaved throughout the holes and the addition of a large focal point such as a mountain.

Kayafas addressed the historical aspects of the pool. Engineer Wesley Bintz created the uniquely designed and patented above-ground pools beginning around 1923. Reports say about 150 pools were built in the U.S. and Canada, though to date only 19 survive, with six remaining in use and only four listed on the national registry. “This pool means a lot to the community,” Kayafas noted. “It’s worth saving and adapting to another use.” Kayafas also addressed the benefits and drawbacks to adding Bruce Pool to the historical registry. He added that the pool has already been named a candidate for the National Register of Historic Places and it would only take 60-90 days to get Bruce Pool registered, should the commission choose to go that route.

At the close of the presentation the floor was opened for questions. Mayor Lucille Blum advised the group, saying, “We have a jewel here. We have to make good decisions about it.” Many in attendance posed issues, raised concerns, and offered suggestions to the proposed master plan.

Among many comments made by those present, Weldon Williams stressed the importance and the effectiveness of letting the public as a whole decide what should be done with the pool.

To that end Gibb stated a public meeting would be held in the near future.