What is so historic/ unique about the pool?
The UNH Outdoor Pool was one of nearly 200 pools constructed in 1938 as a Works Project Administration (WPA) project under FDR to help alleviate the effects of the Great Depression. It is now possibly the only pool of that design that remains from that era as most were constructed with poured concrete and very few still remain. It has been listed on the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s “Seven to Save” list and has been found eligible for listing on the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places by the NH Division of Historic Resources. This automatically qualifies the pool for consideration to be listed on the National Register as well.
Our pool has many unique features which include the hand laid New Hampshire granite stones, a gradual entrance shallow area, areas of different depth, its being surrounded by trees and of course, its large size. Many of these features are what make the pool incredibly special in addition to being historic. Plus, at over 40,000 square feet, it is by far the largest swimming pool in the state.
Why does the university want to close it?
In the November 1st letter that announced the pool’s closure, the university cited concern that the pool does not meet modern pool standards and therefore might put swimmers at risk.
However, a possible motivation might be their desire to expand the adjacent Hamel Recreation Center. In the past, proposals for using the space currently occupied by the pool have included a parking lot, a new indoor pool, and even student housing.
Is the pool really safe?
Yes! It is true that the pool does not meet all of the requirements of a modern swimming pool if one was to be built today, but that is because it is not a modern swimming pool. It obviously does not have gutters, skimmers, etc., but this does not necessarily have an impact on overall health and safety. A report was recently released by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Systems, the state office that regulates swimming facilities in our state and performs an annual inspection of the pool. Although the report did mention the lack of modern features, it clearly stated that the pool is safe, well managed, and may be “grandfathered.” The water is tested four times a day both for chemical balance and chlorine level as well as weekly for bacteria. The pool’s temporary closure towards the end of the 2013 season resulted from a positive test for bacteria. This happens at some time to all pools and affirms that any possible health risk is detected and then remedied.
The university also claims that the dark granite bottom makes it difficult for lifeguards to see the bottom of the pool and therefore swimmers may be at risk. However, the lifeguards we’ve spoken with do not support that assertion. They feel very confident lifeguarding at the pool and note that the clarity of the water allows them to observe the pool in its entirety. In addition, lakes, rivers, and the ocean do not have bright colored bottoms.
Does the university build a new pool or upgrade the existing one?
The university has plans to build a new outdoor pool. HOWEVER, the university has implied that they are only willing to fund the cost for a 10,000 square foot pool, a size that they deem sufficient for their own programming needs. This new, much smaller pool would lack the character and history of our current pool and would not be large enough to accommodate all of the activities that currently take place there. Public access to this pool would most likely be extremely limited.
The university has suggested that they may provide the town with the option to fund the difference in cost between the 10,000 sq. ft. pool and a larger one if the Town of Durham wishes to have a bigger pool. Another possible option would be to bring the existing pool up to modern standards. However, the university has given the town an estimated price of $6.6 million to upgrade the current pool in this manner and the $2.9 million this would cost the town is clearly not affordable. Such a renovation, if possible, would certainly destroy the pool’s historic character. Many who support preserving the pool recognize that it is much more than just a swimming pool. It is an iconic community landmark, used for generations and the social fabric of the greater Durham and UNH community in the summer. Places like this are irreplaceable!
Also, with the $20 million + cost to expand the Hamel Rec Center, adding on the cost of the construction of any new pool would greatly add to current student activity fees and therefore substantially increase tuition.
How much is the pool used? Who uses it?
Every day UNH summer students, faculty, staff, student athletes, and area residents, lap swimmers, and rec swimmers simultaneously use the pool. In addition, at least three camps frequently utilize the pool throughout the summer. The university also hosts visitors for conferences, summer youth programs (such as SYMS), and orientation. Also, the percentage of student users has also risen from 7% in 2008 to 25% in 2012. As the university expands and offers more programs each summer, so does the need for a large outdoor pool.
Is the pool operating at a loss?
It is unknown if the pool is operating at a loss, and if so, by how much. Several requests have been made for that information, but the university still has not yet released an accurate record of account. It is known that Camp Wildcat, a major user of the pool, contributes no money towards the pool. UNH has also discouraged usage by decreasing programming, substantially raising admission and pass fees as well as by making their claims of the pool being not safe.
What is the town contributing?
The town currently provides $20,000 annually for the pool’s maintenance and operation. It is possible that the town may provide additional funding, but that has yet to be negotiated.
Could the university expand indoor recreational facilities without affecting the pool?
Of course! There are many different approaches the university can take. Some proposed ideas have included expanding the current rec center in a different direction that would not impact the pool, building a rec center satellite facility or placing exercise equipment in the various dorms.
Isn’t there a contract that requires UNH to keep the pool open?
There is an agreement between the town and university signed in 2006. It recognizes that UNH will operate the pool and will allow town residents to use a parking lot adjacent to the pool in exchange for the town allowing the UNH Crew Team to park at Jackson’s Landing. This contract requires each party to provide one year’s formal notice before closing the pool. Since UNH did not officially announce the pool’s closing until November 1st, it is believed that they may be in violation of this contract if they do not open the pool in 2014. The contract can be accessed here.
What is the town’s official position on the pool?
What can I do to help?
The easiest thing you can do is sign the online petitions found on our website. There are three petitions; one for everyone (both UNH affiliated individuals as well as those with no UNH connections), one specific for children, and another solely for those people affiliated with the university. You may sign more than one petition if that is appropriate. Another way that you can help is to attend a possible forum that FUNHOP may hold to discuss the fate of the pool. Information about that will be posted on our website and in the Durham Friday updates. You can also write letters in support of the pool to UNH President Mark Huddleston, UNH Vice President Mark Rubinstein and your local newspaper. But most importantly, talk to your friends, neighbors, and student senators and tell them why preserving the pool is important to you and the community. If you have any additional questions, or would like to stay updated on our efforts, send us an email. Thank you so very much!