Asheville – People looking to dive into the deep end of the Malvern Hills pool this summer should not hold their breath.
Asheville Parks and Recreation said the loved community pool likely won’t open all summer after an annual inspection with Buncombe County Environmental Health determined that the drain cover had fallen out of compliance with newly updated federal pool regulations.
This leaves only one of the city’s three public swimming pools open for use and has sparked anger and confusion from residents of the surrounding West Asheville neighborhood.
Gardens and Records: After years of fighting, ardent pickle ball players in Asheville invite dedicated playgrounds
more: New Asheville Parks and Recreation Director: City Needs ‘Deliberate Focus on Equity’
“This is my summer,” said Julia Schuster. She lives in the neighborhood around the pool and tells her family that closing the pool is a devastating loss.
“I don’t put my kids in any kind of summer camp because the pool is our lifeline… It’s basically the spirit of this part of West Asheville and beyond. So it’s really sad.”
Shuster was one of about 40 people who gathered under the Malvern Hills Park picnic shelter on June 22 for a community chat with Parks and Recreation staff.
“I don’t like why we’re here at all, but it’s always good for our community to come together and talk things through,” said de Terrell McGuert, Parks and Recreation Manager.
McGirt has led the department since January and was quick to stress not only the importance of community conversation but his empathy for the impact it would have on the neighborhood.
“It boils down to a safety issue,” he said. “We did not pass the inspection this spring.”
He said no changes had been made to the pool since it passed the inspection last May, which is one reason the management was surprised that the inspection failed this year.
Until this year, the Malvern Hills Pool was found in compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007, which created a set of regulations to avoid the trap hazards that occur when strong uptake from a pool’s water circulation system causes a person to become trapped. Underwater.
The law was signed into federal law after the death of 7-year-old Virginia, who drowned after being trapped underwater by a hot tub in 2002.
Asheville Parks and Recreation staff have said there have been no known deaths at Malvern Hills Pool in its 100-year history.
Revisions to VGB standards in 2021 have increased the number of tests that must be performed by manufacturers of safe drain caps. Updates include changes to test methods, new test standards, and label specifications.
read this:A cloud of poisonous gases in the pool of the Crowne Plaza sends 3 people to the hospital
Previous coverage: After Asheville Elementary “Devastating” Closing, $200 Pre-K Parents Increased
During the annual inspection on May 22, it was discovered that the drainage system in Malvern Hills does not comply with the updated standards.
Unfortunately, Parks & Rick Director of Programs and Operations Wayne Simmons said, it’s not an easy fix. Or, at least, not fast.
It’s a more complex problem due to an unconventional drain configuration, Simmons said, with most tests not typically designed for such legacy pool infrastructure.
Due to supply chain issues, said city employees, VBG approved drain caps are not currently available, and the city does not anticipate being able to get new caps in place and obtain an operating permit in time for the summer season.
Simmons said the problem is not unique to Asheville, and that other cities and entertainment agencies across the state have similar compliance concerns after the updated regulations.
“Our goal is to try to look at this problem and see what can be done,” McGirt said. “The goal now is not to wait until next year or next spring to solve the problem, the goal is to solve the problem as quickly as possible.”
What followed at a picnic shelter meeting in June was an hour-long question-and-answer session, residents brewing with low-grade desperation, making occasional heated comments.
Several people have offered suggestions or possible solutions – such as trying to get a waiver from the Department of Health, 3D printing their drain cover or screwing up the deep end of the pool where the incompatible drain is.
WNC Nature Center:What do you know about the WNC Nature Center: the new exhibits? Still for the locals? Higher ticket costs?
186 units of Long Shoals Project: Affordable studio and one bedroom apartments coming to Arden?
McGirt promised to consider all the solutions he could, and residents praised Parks and Rick’s efforts despite their disappointment.
Brian Nelson, a neighbor of the pool, said he appreciated the department’s hosting of the conversation, and said the issue appeared to be down to “the status quo, bureaucratic matters.”
However, this is a loss for him, his family, and especially his children who are enrolled in Malvern Hills Park Summer Camp.
According to a city press release, registrants can get a refund or move their child to another location based on availability.
AB Davis, another neighbor present, said he responded to the shutdown with “outrage”. He was particularly skeptical about the timing and wished that any problems had been discovered before the start of the three-month summer season at the pool.
“This is our summer place,” he said. “Some glitch in the Ministry of Health inspection fabric said, ‘You can’t open it. … It just seems to be an excuse,’” he said.
Chester was grateful to “finally get some answers” from the department but couldn’t hide her disappointment.
“I want to be optimistic, but I don’t want to be emotionally crushed,” she said of any potential fixes.
She was among the residents to protest the length of the swimming season – with pools opening in June and closing in mid-August.
McGuert said that regardless of what happens to Malvern Hills this summer, he will consider extending summer swimming hours.
With Malvern Hills Pool out of business, the only city-owned public pool open this summer is the Recreation Park Pool on Gashes Creek Road.
After being closed for a week after broken glass was discovered in the water, according to a city press release, the recreation pool reopened on June 17.
The city’s third public swimming pool, Walton Street Pool, closed last year after 83 years, in large part due to expensive mechanical and structural issues.
Related: Swimming pools in Asheville and Buncombe open for summer after COVID-19 restrictions
more: Asheville has entered into a $6.7 million contract to expand the Grant Center, and plans include a pool
In its place is a new swimming pool under construction at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Community Centre. It is expected to open next summer.
Mayor Esther Mannheimer was on standby in attendance at Malvern Hills Park, who said she and City Council would do everything they could to help open the Malvern Hills Pool.
“This is a gem,” she said of the pool. “Unfortunately, all we can do is try to support the Parks & Rick division in their work.”
She said the pool had been on the city’s capital list for a while, but the Walton Street complex was taken care of first and the Grant Center expansion, also a long-standing request of the community.
The city also has a free interactive spray board in Pack Square Park.
As an alternative to the pool, Parks and Rec’s Rec n Roll, the department’s mobile recreation unit, will have to come to the park weekly to host water activities, said Candy Hensley Shaw, Community Outreach Coordinator at Parks and Recreation.
She said there will also be water rubber in the park every week.
“I know it’s not a swimming pool,” Shaw said. “But it’s an alternative for the kids.”
Water Fun Days are scheduled throughout the summer on different days and will be posted on the city’s website. The first scheduled days are June 26 and 28.
‘Where does the money go?’
McGirt got his start in amusement parks and water sports and emphasized the importance of pools in the community as meeting places and public spaces.
However, he said, this conversation highlights the bigger picture of much-needed improvements to many parks and recreation assets.
“The swimming pool is only one concern of our entire garden system,” he said. “Continuing to give first aid to problems as they arise is not the point.”
What is needed, he said, is a master plan that includes all the necessary improvements to the city’s park system.
more: Moog music workers about to call union elections
City council retreat: City of Asheville employees expect limited new services; Recommend increased water and sanitation
A $500,000 comprehensive facility study has been approved by the Asheville City Council as part of its fiscal year 2022 budget.
Schuster said the Malvern Hills pool closure raises the question that often pops up when community assets go awry — “Where does the money go?”
She worries that the focus is being placed more on tourism than on likable community infrastructure, which she said pales in comparison to other cities of similar size.
The future of Asheville Memorial Stadium: Can tourism and community needs coexist?
Touch Memorial Stadium: “We need to do a better job,” says Asheville city manager.
“We don’t need more tourism,” said Schuster. “People are coming whether we advertise or not. We need activities for the kids and the community because I’ve heard over the last two or three years, between the cost of living in Asheville and our horrible facilities and our offerings for families, people are turning away now.”
McGirt said he knows the impact of the pool closure—already, Recreation Park Pool is reaching capacity by afternoon, and he expects more traffic to be redirected to the city’s only open public pool owned by the city.
He said, “People just want answers. A lot of things don’t make sense. There seems to be a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy. We got it. What stood out was that people wanted the pool open, and they want it now. We want to try to make that easier while keeping our safety.” also “.
Sarah Honosky is the city government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. news tips? Email email@example.com or send a message on Twitter at @slhonosky.