HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Dozens of kids helped celebrate the reopening of the AD Lewis Center Pool in Huntington Tuesday afternoon.
The pool has been closed for a year-and-a-half.
In April, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin gave the City of Huntington $40,000 to renovate the pool.
The center's director, Maria Hill, says having the pool back open does more than just offer kids a good time.
"It definitely gives them something to do and a way to cool down," Hill said. "Right now blacks are the highest rate of drowning so this also gives them the opportunity to learn how to swim."
A grand reopening is planned soon that will include Governor Tomblin.
The pool is the last public pool in the city. It was built in 1953.
Bob Martin, the man in charge at the A.D. Lewis Center, is serious about changing the landscape and getting a new pool -- sooner rather than later.
He says he and City Councilwoman Sandra Clements will continue to hold regular public meetings to keep people updated on the financial status of the pool, as well as to gather more ideas.
The pool is the last in the city of Huntington. It was built in 1953 and has seen it's better day -- much of the pool crumbles when it's touched.
"Things fall apart and you can't fix it any more," Sandra Clements said. "you've got to replace it."
Clements is on the City Council in Huntington. The A.D. Lewis Center is in her district and she's dedicated herself to raising $250,000 to build the new pool.
Thursday, neighbors filled the center for an old fashioned brainstorm session. From candy sales to asking local churches for help, neighbors will leave no stone unturned.
"It almost makes me want to cry," 10-year-old Kenneth Jeffries said. "It's all dirty and we can't have it this summer."
The A.D. Lewis Center is taking donations for anyone and everyone.
After 58 years, the A.D. Lewis community center pool is crumbling beyond repair. It's a loss that goes way beyond losing a cool spot on a hot summer day.
As one pool fails, though, another in a nearby town flourishes.
“We were pressure-washing, and chunks of concrete started to fall out,” A.D. Lewis Community Center Director Bob Martin said.
It's a problem that's years in the making -- a community pool long on history, and now short on life.
“We can’t patch it anymore; we have to rebuild,” Martin said.
After numerous pressure washes and patch jobs, the A.D. Lewis Community Center pool is falling apart -- literally.
Bob Martin is the community center director. This was the last surviving public pool in Huntington after one in Guyandotte and another on the city's Southside closed recently. It's a loss Martin is taking personally.
“It’s devastating, and I hold myself responsible because this happened on my watch,” Martin said.
To replace the pool would cost $250,000 minimum. It's a goal Martin is keeping in mind, but he says it will not happen in time for the pool to open this year --calling this much more than just the loss of summer fun hangout.
“Statistics show African-American children, Hispanic and poor children of all races are seven times more likely to drown than Caucasian children because they can’t swim and don’t have the same access to pools,” Martin said.
“We need to work together as a community to raise enough money not just for repairs, but for operating expenses long term,” Martin said.
“We’re struggling, too,” said Fox Heaberlin, director of Dreamland Pool.
By comparison, Dreamland Pool in neighboring Kenova is celebrating its 85th year. The signs of aging are still evident, but the regular maintenance is making all the difference there.
“We try to do a little maintenance each year so that it doesn’t all pile up on us," Heaberlin said. "If you don’t stay on top of the little things along the way, you won’t have a pool."
“We place a high priority in our pool because we don’t want our kids going to the river. That’s a very dangerous place for them to go, but kids will find a place to swim,” Heaberlin said.
Dreamland Pool is scheduled to open Saturday.
Meanwhile, the A.D. Lewis Center has plans to bus the children to the YMCA Kennedy Center Pool three times a week this summer, but plans for the future are uncertain.
A community meeting is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 26, in the A.D. Lewis Center gym to take ideas, suggestions and donations for rebuilding the pool.
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