Capaha Park pool faces uncertain future

Saturday, May 2, 2009
Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department senior pool maintenance manager Roger Williams sprays down Capaha Pool Thursday afternoon, April 30, 2009, in preparation for the upcoming season. Capaha Pool, which first opened in 1957, will open to the public on Memorial Day weekend. (Kit Doyle)

By Brian Blackwell

Southeast Missourian

This summer could be the swan song for the pool at Capaha Park.

The pool has been plagued by repeated breakdowns in recent years and the possibility of lower attendance when the new aquatic park opens near the Osage Community Centre in 2010, and city officials are uncertain whether the 52-year-old Capaha Pool will operate through the summer or even open at all.

Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation director Dan Muser said crews are patching a pool wall and painting and patching sections of the bath house. He said the pool is deteriorating and allowing sand from the filtration system to flow into the pool.

The pool is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend and close Labor Day. But Muser said city officials won't know whether the pool is operational until repairs are complete next week.

"Once we get water in there and turn on the pumps to get everything running, we'll know if it'll be ready," Muser said. "Plans are to open the pool on its traditional weekend, but we won't know if that will happen until then."

Muser said the pool and bath house would have to be completely rebuilt to remain operational, costing the city at least a few million dollars. He said the city does not have the money to fund such repairs.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson echoed the thought.

"Certainly our goal is to keep it open, but recent discoveries have found the equipment to be in pretty bad shape," Knudtson said. "Given the tough budget times we're going through it might not be the prudent thing to purchase new equipment when its ultimate livelihood is in jeopardy."

Some of the most recent problems at the pool date back to June 2004, when a hydrochloric acid leak in the chemical storage room of the pool briefly shut the facility down.

The next year a broken circulating pump shut down the pool from mid-July through the remainder of the swimming season.

And in August, the pool was forced to close for a few days while crews made electrical repairs.

"That's been the story of the pool for 20 years," Muser said. "Either it flies or it doesn't fly. It's hard to keep it going without spending some money, but it's always been the concept of not spending thousands of dollars on a pool that at very best we keep patching up.

"We've tried to keep the cost of fixing it down but at the same time keeping it operational," he said. "But we can't continue going in there spending money we don't have."

Knudtson said that closing the pool would end an era of one of the city's landmarks.

"It's represented a form of recreation for our city that is certainly undeniable," Knudtson said. "With great trepidation and angst, we have to have this conversation.

"It's troublesome but reality," he said. "This is a facility that may have reached its end of the road."

Muser said that if the pool closes patrons can use the Central Municipal Pool and the proposed aquatic center. Scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend 2010, the four-acre aquatic center will boast a slide, pool, children's bathing area, whirlpool, concession stand and lazy river. A ribbon cutting is planned for March.

"Once this aquatic center opens I suspect there won't be a lot of activity in the other pools," Muser said. "This will be the place to come.

"The others are great for lap or competitive swimming but not much fun for anything other than getting wet," he said. "It will be an amazing facility that appeals to the entire family."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

Pertinent address:

410 Kiwanis Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

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