There’s an interesting, albeit sad article on Boston.com on the future of the Underwood Pool, which has long been in disrepair and, this summer, can no longer (safely) support a diving board. The pool itself, the article says, may soon be too far beyond repair to serve as a swimming pool.
It would be really hard to call this a “crisis,” at least insofar as “crisis” infers some kind of sudden change in fortune or a problem that’s acute in nature. Indeed, I’ll note this blogging belmont blog post from 2008 – “Are We Letting the Underwood Die?” that raises many of the same issues as the Boston.com article – a chronic, years long history of under investment in the facility, poor siting (the pool sits atop an underground spring that was the town’s original swimming hole). So this might be viewed as a “crisis” in the same way that, say, stone age humans might have viewed the specter of a glacier encroaching on their hunting grounds.
Alas, the Town’s sclerotic political system moves at a sub-glacial pace, as evidenced by the interminable debate among the town’s political class about the Underwood’s fate, as well as that of a new library the (current) playing fields on Concord Avenue that would need to be relocated should the library move across Concord Avenue, as the current proposal suggests. These are tricky problems, no doubt. But the Underwood has been on life support for close to a decade – and that’s plenty of time for our leadership to cook up a plan to save it.
I do see some reason for hope, however. Back in 2008, the Warrant Committee was actually tossing around the idea of just letting the Underwood die a natural death. I don’t hear many people talking that way now. Belmont’s successful vote to take part in the Community Preservation Act (CPA) could make much needed state matching funds available for a project to restore or preserve the Underwood, which is the nation’s oldest outdoor public swimming pool.The Boston.com story references a plan by DPW head Peter Castanino to move the pool to the top of the hill on its current site, then build playing fields on top of the current pool and “Golden Bowl” (don’t ask) sites. That would then enable the library’s move across Concord Ave AND free up the current library building to serve as our next police station. Hat trick!! Finally, there’s some much needed momentum on the grass roots level. Belmont Partners in Play launched this past winter to galvanize community support for our public parks and playgrounds, including the Underwood. Any serious effort to restore or renovate the Underwood will require significant input and private fund raising from the town. There are considerable resources out there and – I suspect- lots of folks who would be willing and eager to step forward with a donation to help build a new Underwood. But we, as a town, have to be ready and willing to ask!