The Daily Advertiser journalist Olivia Shying dives into the plight of the area’s public pools.
“We used to spend half our time at the pool and the other half down at the water-way,” John Bortolazzo chuckled.
Blue tiles reflecting the light, cold chlorinated water lapping against the wall.
Five teenagers bomb into the water.
Water drenches towels.
Little wet footprints patter over the pavement as kids bee-line for the kiosk and the chance to buy an ice-cream.
Australia was built on them.
Now many of them are old, weary and face the cut.
John has lived in Griffith for more than seven decades.
He swims at the revamped Griffith pool a number of times a week.
“I originally used it for hydrotherapy and it helped me,” John said.
He remembers the day the original pool was built.
Before that pool John said there was an older pool with a pipe that saw water continuously pumped in.
“It was great,” he said.
“We used to go over there as a group, I love the water and it was a nice place to be.
“We had a couple of trees and no barbecues back then.”
Anthony Paul has been president of the Wagga Water Polo Club for many years.
Kids have earned their stripes at the Oasis - putting in the hard yards and scoring points.
Adults have regained their fitness; re-learned the meaning of teamwork.
Anthony has always fought for the pool and believes Wagga has got the best.
“We have the best pool in regional Australia,” Anthony said.
He said the pool provided an excellent outlet for people seeking health and fitness, and filled a gap that backyard pools couldn’t.
“The pool is an integral part of the community,” Anthony said.
Pools are always an emotional topic.
They tug on the heart strings, they get people talking.
Recently a small Facebook post on the Lockhart Shire facebook page sparked community outrage.
If The Rock and Lockhart lost their pool where would they go?
The 2014-2015 summer season lessee of the pool, Sophie Driscoll, said the pool rates had been strong over summer.
School groups had used the pool for group swimming lessons.
“You could see the improvements these children made in just a couple of weeks,” Sophie said.
“For some of them, this is the only chance they have to learn how to swim.
“Without the pool where would they learn?”
Sophie said trips during the school day to Wagga would take a significant portion of learning time out of the day and could deter schools from running the program.
Meanwhile, Junee perhaps could be seen as the little town that could.
Former Junee mayor Lola Cummins said that as long as people go to a pool it shows they still want that asset in the community.
When the Junee Pool was rebuilt in the early 2000s there were many options.
The pool was old and outdated.
It was built in the 1930s - before the concept of a Wagga pool had even been mooted.
Wagga swimmers used to board a special train direct to Junee.
It was a small pool with good facilities but over time they - like the tiles - faded.
Lola said the only upgrades made to the pool were cosmetic and minor.
Speaking from a personal perspective, Lola said a great deal of innovation had been used when developing the Junee pool.
The town’s 50-metre outdoor pool, as it stands, is the result of a major refurbishment of the original pool from 1938.
In cooler months the pool is transformed into a 25-metre indoor pool.
A winter “curtain” is pulled out, allowing the 25-metre section to be separated and heated.
This same innovation has been called for by Lockhart community stalwart Chris Mackey.
Chris and a small group of dedicated swimmers spent years campaigning for the redevelopment of the Lockhart pool.
“The pool is 33 metres which is a serious issue,” Chris said.
She is in favour of the old pool being developed into a 25-metre pool.
“It can’t be used for serious competitions at the moment.
“Making it a 25-metre pool would allow it to be used for small school carnivals.”
Admitting pools are “extremely expensive to run” Chris said it was a cost councils had to bare to ensure the continued livelihood of the town.
“There is a lot of ground, and a slide or other attraction could be added.”
When the pool committee was active Chris investigated a number of sustainable heating options, including geo-thermal heating - an investment she said would deliver longer term savings.
“We have already raised a few thousand and will be looking at which grants we can apply for.”
Perhaps no pool has been rallied for quite like a pool that is under threat at the moment.
The Wagga Hyrdrotherapy pool is one with a purpose - and one that Karenne Connors has fought for over the past 12 months.
In 1981, the year of the disabled, Mrs Connors’ mother Marcia Rumble founded the Wagga and District Arthritis and Rheumatism Group.
She rallied for the cause.
During the mid 1980s Metro Meats (now Teys Australia) ran a payroll contribution scheme, where $1 a week was donated by employees.
A large amount of money was raised through this scheme.
A total of $243,000 was contributed from the community.
This week many community members felt resigned to the fact that the pool may be closed.
But they will not go down without a fight.
In late November 2013, Adelong’s community aquatic centre was opened, with hundreds of locals jumping in to cool off.
Tumut Shire Council developed a monthly and season pass swipe card initiative in a bid to keep running costs down - the card gives visitors access to Tumut, Adelong and Batlow swimming pools.
The town's revamped community aquatic centre was officially opened, with hundreds of people diving in to celebrate.
And, adding to the fun is an access swipe card.
Tumut Shire Council (TSC), which is responsible for three pools - Tumut, Adelong and Batlow - has made the card available to swimmers in a bid to keep its running costs down.
The $2.7 million complex didn't cost the community a cent - funded through a number of grants.
Back in Griffith, John said he enjoys using the indoor pool.
“At the time I wanted an outdoor pool,” John said.
Now he is grateful the community has one at all.
“You go through stages in life when you use the pool - when we were teenagers we used it, when we had girlfriends we went to the river and then when we had children we went back to the pool.
“It’s good for everyone and somewhere I look forward to going to.”
Let's hope the pools continue to be there for his grandchildren's children to enjoy.
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