Pool reopens after seven months
December 5, 2019
At 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning, 91-year-old Joan Snyder eagerly penned her name on the sign-in sheet at the Haines swimming pool on its opening day. She was the second among 72 swimmers that came for a complimentary free swim after seven months of closure for renovations.
Like many swimmers, Snyder said the prolonged closure was “awful” and she’s glad to be back to her normal exercise routine, which doubles as a social hour.
“I’ve been going to that pool since it opened in the 80s,” Snyder said. She used to swim laps, but said she now does joint-mobility exercises. “Swimming is the best kind of exercise because it’s very gentle on the joints for people like me with arthritis and that sort of thing. It’s a regular social thing besides being good exercise.”
Swimmers Leanne Converse and Kate Saunders agreed.
“After not being able to exercise all summer, I’m delighted the pool is open,” Converse said.
“It’s always been a huge social connection,” Saunders said. “If one of us misses, someone from the early morning swim will call to make sure they’re okay. If you didn’t show up for swimming, they want to know why.”
The pool officially reopened Friday, Nov. 29, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation approved a second water chemistry sample after an earlier sample failed due to lack of sufficient chlorine levels.
“Be aware that due to the first sample getting flagged we will be strictly enforcing that there are absolutely no street clothes or shoes allowed on deck,” pool manager RaeAnn Miner wrote in an email. “We will all need to watch this to prevent the spread of bacteria and having any more flagged samples.”
Public facilities director Ed Coffland said the initial water sample was expected to fail, as contamination from construction work wasn’t fully cleaned up at the time the sample was taken.
By Monday, 43 Haines Dolphins were back in the pool with goggles and kickboards, making up for the lost three months of their season.
Asher Jimenez, 8, said it took him a minute to get his swim legs back. “I forgot everything about it,” he said. “When I jumped in, I felt like I’m not going to be good at it, but once I kept swimming I sort of got it.”
Coach Jackie St. Clair said the team will begin working on rebuilding endurance and remembering technique the first couple of weeks of the season. “Unfortunately, our swimmers are three months behind other Alaskan teams right now,” she said. “But they are dedicated athletes and we are going to treat the setback as a challenge we can overcome.” The Haines Dolphins will attend their first meet in January.
Miner noted a few “workarounds” for swimmers, such as using caution around the new grated gutters that may pinch or damage swimsuits.
The lobby foyer is not yet open to the public, locker room bench manufacturing is under way, and the balcony will remain closed until sauna construction is completed, she said. Tom Morphet, who is organizing the sauna construction, said work should be completed by the end of the year.
The Haines Borough contracted with RenoSys for renovations than began in May and included replacing the pool’s drainage system, installing new floors and drains and showers in the men’s and women’s locker rooms. Additionally, the borough’s public facilities crew installed new lockers.
“It looks way different,” said Dolphin swimmer Rylee Sloan, 10. “There’s new floors, there’s new lockers, the shower looks way different and the water feels really really clean.”
The contracted work, originally slated for completion in August, was stalled due to chemical delivery delay and a leak in the new liner that has not yet been fixed. Coffland estimates the improperly installed liner to be leaking between five and 15 gallons of water a day into the basement below the deep end.
Two weeks ago, RenoSys president Steve Comstock said the company will send an employee back to Haines to fix the leak soon after Thanksgiving, but Coffland said Tuesday he hadn’t received any confirmation yet.
“The leak continues, but at least we’re in there swimming,” Coffland said.
Comstock did not respond to the CVN’s request for comment.
On Wednesday afternoon, less than a week after its opening, the Haines swimming pool temporarily closed while staff worked to fix a leak coming from the plumbing in one of the locker room sinks.
The leak, which seeped into the school gym’s locker room floor below, was discovered by Haines School physical education teacher Greg Brittenham, who opened the locker room door to find water on the floor. Miner told the CVN the pool was scheduled to reopen Wednesday evening.
The winter swim schedule can be found online at hainesalaska.gov.