The former Richland Community Swimming Pool will be reborn … as something.
But the people devoted to resurrecting the 4-acre site don’t know yet what it will become.
“There’s a lot of interest in a community playground or dog park. People are talking about rental picnic shelters,” Rich Raiders, solicitor for the Richland Community Swimming Pool Association, said in an interview late last week. “Several other proposals are being bounced around, but nothing is final yet.
“There are other things that could be done with that space that are only limited by the imaginations of the people involved. … The board needs to decide what they want this place to be when it grows up.”
The pool was founded in 1961 and operated as an independent community organization until around 2012, when the facility closed due to financial constraints.
“It just sat there for a few years,” Raiders said.
In 2018, some residents broached the idea of turning the site into something new.
And the community has responded to the idea with enthusiasm, said board secretary Bevan Allen.
“I’m really proud of the movement that this has,” she said. “For four years, I think we as a community just drove past it and were sad.
“Now, we just want to repurpose the site for something that benefits the community. The pool was a center of the community, and we don’t want to lose that.”
Board members are still seeking ideas — and funds — for the site’s revitalization.
A new pool is still on the table, Raiders said, but construction would cost “well north of $1 million. Standards have changed a bit since 1961.”
With numerous community pools closing in recent years — and with a modern pool facility in neighboring Myerstown — Allen said a new pool probably isn’t the most economically feasible plan.
Several months ago, the association filled in the original L-shaped pool, which was unsalvageable, Raiders said. A toddler pool, gravel parking lot and small, one-story building that served as a snack bar, locker room, shower and pump house remain on the site.
In an interview in January, association president Andrew Kriss said the lifeguard chairs and diving board also were saved so they could be used in some capacity in the next phase of the property.
More importantly for the future of the property, Raiders said, is reactivating the association’s 501(c)(3) status, which was recently accomplished after a review by the state Attorney General’s office. As a recognized nonprofit, he explained, the association can accept tax-deductible donations and pursue grant money for the project.
“This last year has been a series of small victories,” Allen said. “A lot of pieces had to fall into place before we could determine a path forward.”
Richland Borough officials have been supportive of the process, Raiders said, although they have not expressed a preference for the site’s next use, nor they have offered funds toward the project.
The borough did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the plan.
Raiders said the board hopes to make a decision on the property by the end of this year. Then, once funds are raised, construction could begin as soon as next spring.
“We have four acres, so hopefully we can do more than one thing there,” Allen added. “The most important thing for us is that there’s something there for every generation.”
In the meantime, the association is generating public interest in the site by holding free movies nights on the property.
“The board wanted to start bringing people back out to the site to get them used to the idea that it’s a community resource,” Raiders said. “People are excited about this.”
The first one, held July 19, drew some 60 people, Allen said. The second was rained out on Aug. 2, and a third, on Aug. 16, brought another 30 people to the site. The next movie, “Mary Poppins Returns,” is set to begin at dusk on Sept. 6.
The association also has scheduled a public reorganization meeting at 6:30pm on Sept. 3 at Neptune Fire Hall. Allen said residents can ask questions and find out more about getting involved in the project.
For more information, check the Richland Community Swimming Pool Association page on Facebook or email the association at [email protected].
“Keep an eye on the Facebook page,” Raiders said. “That’s where updates are usually posted first.”