Requiem for Swimming at Landmark
Could restoring an overgrown outdoor pool be the most cost-effective way to dive back into aquatic athletics?
by Petar Petrovic
Landmark College no longer has a working pool on campus to go swimming, and while it has not historically been the most popular amenity in the Click Center, there is indeed a subset of students who would enjoy the ability to take a dip on hot days.
You may not be aware of it, but there is a pond on campus which was once the Windham College swimming pool – it even has a marker on google maps! Neglected for about 40 years, it now teems with fish and other wildlife. Could this vernal pool born from human neglect actually be the most viable option to restore swimming options for Landmark students?
Josh Ascani, Assistant Director of Recreation and Outdoor Programs, says “You could swim there now, but it’s not in good condition to swim in. We have a pool on campus in the Click Center, but it is unusable, and it might be cheaper to fix up the old pool.”
“The [Click Center] pool was taken out of service in January 2020 due to a leak that resulted in corrosion of the underground support structure,” said Kari Post, Director of Athletics, Fitness and Recreation (pictured right). “The frame had enough damage that it was structurally unsound, not deemed safe to continue to use, and considered beyond repair,” Post continued, “The pool itself was custom fit for the Click Center and installed during construction of the original building. There is no way to simply remove the old pool and replace it with a new one.”
COVID-19 restrictions make operating a swimming pool unfeasible in the immediate future, and therefore figuring out what to do with the pool room currently takes low priority, but Post and Ascani both echoed likely prospects of converting it into a multi-use P.E. room, ideal for Zumba, yoga, fitness classes, stretching, plyometrics, first-aid and CPR training, sports team meetings, and the classroom portion of PE classes. With a myriad of alternative uses for the space, the outlook of diving into a Click Center pool are a little grim.
When asked about the benefits of restoring the outdoor Windham College pool, Rich Grumbine, Associate Professor for the Natural Sciences Department, was about 50-50 on the idea. “I am two-minded, it is a great idea to get students to swim during hot days, but it would change the wild nature [living there now].”
Professor Grumbine uses the pond about once a year for his biology and environment classes to gather field samples every fall. He says that “if the pond is to be drained and [we] put in a new liner, then it changes the ecology.” An effort to restore the pond back into a proper swimming pool would indeed be at odds with the existing wildlife.
When asked about the perks and drawbacks of restoring the Windham College pool, Grumbine and Ascani both said that it would represent quite the opportunity for students to get involved on campus. Being just out of sight from the rest of campus, safety and littering could become a concern. Students would have to pay attention to themselves and keep an eye out for others who cannot swim or need help swimming. Ascani also noted the pool could double as a skating rink in the winter, saving the costs that the college currently pays to install one on the quad each winter.
It should be noted that the exact qualities of the Windham College pool are subject to some debate - when asked about the pool, members of the Windham College Survivors facebook page could either not remember having a pool, or said it was little more than a giant hole lined with tarpaulin, and called “the baggy.”
There are at least a few current Landmark students who feel like there should be a usable place to swim on campus. In a small survey with 20 students, 85% of them said that they wanted a place to go swimming on campus. There are some places to swim off campus in Putney but accessing them on foot from campus can be an arduous task.
Post, on the other hand, sounded somewhat skeptical as to whether the demand for a functioning pool exists. “A card reader was installed on the pool in Fall 2017 which allowed us to determine how frequently the pool was used. The user access reports show that only a small number of students used the pool and did so infrequently,” she said. “In a two-year period from 2018-2019, only fifteen individual users used the pool more than ten times (that’s less than once every 10 weeks, maybe a couple times a semester at most).”
Whether the demand exists or not, one cannot overlook the irony of a college whose mascot is a shark, but no longer has any swimming facilities. Perhaps one day, the sharks will be able to swim again.
Originally published in Fall 2020, Volume 2, Issue 2