Saddening some, Capaha Park pool demolition begins

Friday, May 20, 2011
The demolition of Capaha Pool in Cape Girardeau begins Thursday, May 19, 2011. (Laura Simon)

Mary Bolen has enjoyed a long, affectionate relationship with the Capaha Park pool.

In 1963, shortly after she first moved to Cape Girardeau, Bolen worked as a lifeguard there as the masses splashed away in the sometimes blistering summer heat. In the years that followed, she would drop her four children off there for swimming lessons or a carefree afternoon of play.

When her husband Jess became coach of the Capahas baseball team, which played on the nearby field, fans and players would often meet for a dip after the game.

"I have spent a lot of hours there," Bolen said.

Thursday brought the last one, as Bolen went to the pool to watch its destruction.

As two trackhoes crunched through the roof and walls of the bathhouse, Bolen watched silently through the eye of her camera and then quickly posted the images to Facebook.

Later, she admitted it was a bit sad to see.

"I understand it's progress," she said. "But it's sentimental, too. It used to be the only pool in Cape. Everyone came here. High school children met here after school. They really didn't have anything else."

Now the pool is coming down, due to its age, continuous problems and the popularity of the year-old Cape Splash across town. The work started Thursday, and the entire thing is expected to be gone within the next 45 days, leaving a hole in what many consider the "crown jewel" of the city's parks system. The pool, which cost $145,000 to build, opened in 1957 and was relief for a community that hadn't had a pool in more than a year.

But the pool has fallen into disrepair after 53 summers of service, said Penny Williams, recreation manager for the city of Cape Girardeau. The pool has had problems for decades, with talk of replacing it starting in the 1980s. The pool has been repaired several times to stop major leaks and replace pumps.

"This pool is definitely sentimental to a lot of people and to the staff," Williams said. "We spent a lot of time babying it along."

The city has already begun taking a look at what might replace it, with talks centering on possibilities like a splash pad, a rock-climbing wall, playground equipment or new shelters. While some are sad to see the pool go, Williams said it presents an opportunity.

"There will be something better here," she said. "It's one of our signature parks. Frankly, it was becoming something of an eyesore."

Initially, the pool will be replaced by landscaping. The city's parks advisory board recently told the Cape Girardeau City Council it will be the board's No. 1 priority to look at options for the pool spot, while taking a wider view of what would fit into the park as a whole.

The new feature, whatever it is, could be paid for with money from the parks and storm-water sales tax revenue, perhaps some profits from the water park or even savings that had gone to operate the pool, board chairman Danny Essner said recently.

The city has hired a consultant, and there will be a time for public input, though that date hasn't been set. The department is also waiting for a new parks director to be hired to replace Dan Muser, who stepped down in March.

The city paid $73,600 to Kevin Williams Excavating to demolish the pool.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Capaha Park, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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