Fayetteville, N.C. — “So, what are the pool options here?” asked a friend, new to the Fayetteville area, at the beginning of the summer.
Not wanting to discourage her first thing about her new hometown, I stifled a deep sigh.
The thing is, the pool situation here is pretty dire, especially for moms trying to fill the endless hours of summer. And it can be jarring for people when they first move here, because I’m pretty sure public swimming pools are far more abundant in any other city in the state.
Consider this: The city of Wilmington has three public pools and 1 splash pad. City of Durham? Five pools, two of which are indoor, plus four spraygrounds. And the city of Raleigh takes the cake with nine pools, both seasonal and year-round. In addition to public facilities, all three cities have a wide variety of private pools to choose from as well.
Now consider this: The city of Fayetteville has exactly one public pool and one splash pad. Chalmers Pool at Seabrook Park is a seasonal, outdoor pool that operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day. At $1 to $2 daily admission, it’s certainly a bargain, but one public pool for a city with a population of more than 202,000 people? Inadequate doesn’t seem a strong enough word.
And the private options are not much better. Swimming is one of the perks of the three country clubs in the Fayetteville area, but dues are pricey. If golf and tennis aren’t important to your family, it would be hard to justify the cost.
Where are all of the moderately-priced, family-oriented swim clubs, you make be asking. Believe me, many of us are asking that question as well. A large and popular swim club closed several years ago, and no new facilities have opened in its place. That’s especially unfortunate when you consider the lack of neighborhood pools in the Fayetteville area.
Indeed, if you want to enjoy some pool time without paying a hefty price, you have two options: Join the Elk’s and gain access to their members-only pool, or purchase an insurance policy from Woodmen of the World and your family can swim for a small fee. I’ve been explaining this to newcomers for years now, and it’s still hard to believe.
Fayetteville leaders do recognize the need for more public facilities, and one proposal calls for one more city pool and four new splash pads. The city council this month will decide how to prioritize several parks projects. And while there’s no doubt there are many local parks that could use upgrades and additions, I can’t help but think more public swimming options have to be at the top of that list.
In the meantime, we moms do what we must. The friend I mentioned at the beginning? She’s visiting pools through friends this summer, waiting for a more permanent solution to open up.
Here’s to hoping for more options soon.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. She writes about motherhood and family-friendly activities in Fayetteville.