(Editor’s Note: What follows is the second installment of a summer long series examining Lebanon County’s community pools, which first appeared on Lebanon Sports Buzz in 2015.)
BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – Everybody knows it can tone muscles, burn calories and improve one’s cardio. But did you also know that it can lower cholesterol, loosen stiff joints, improve flexibility, strengthen the heart, lower the risk of diabetes and reduce stress.
The benefits of swimming are undeniable. In fact, it may just be the perfect workout.
And while swimming may be the most important thing that patrons do at the Myerstown Community Pool, it’s certainly not the only thing.
“I’ve been a competitive swimmer for 16 years,” said Mara Palazzari, who along with Chad Hackman manages the pool. “It’s very beneficial for people to get out and swim. It is the best exercise out there. It’s beneficial to swim.
Located at on the corner of College and South Railroad Streets in the borough, and within the confines of the Myerstown Lions Community Park, the facility is officially named the William L. Derr Community Swimming Pool and is home to some 200 members, as well as daily visitors. After re-opening late, last summer, due to some sprucing-up renovations, the pool has nearly tripled its membership.
“We’re probably picking up some members from other pools closing,” said Hackman. “It’s a little bit of everyone, but the majority of people who come here are families. Our goal is to stay open and make money. We want to create a fun atmosphere, a safe place to swim and a place for people to socialize. We’re trying to be one of those pools not to close.”
“We’ve actually improved our membership a lot since last year,” said Palazzari. “We want to have as many members as we can get. Our members are mostly from Myerstown, but we’ve been getting more Lebanon people, for sure. I think more people are getting pools at home. But if you want a pool, they’re expensive.”
Maintained and operated by the borough, the Myerstown Community Pool originally opened in 1957. Ever since, it has been a gathering place for individuals, families and teenagers from Myerstown, and surrounding communities.
“When I was little, I came here,” said Hackman, who oversees a squad of eight lifeguards. “It had diving boards back then, and I was afraid of the high dive. It’s pretty much the same as it was then. But it was much busier when I was younger.
“I think you’ve got to keep a community pool well-maintained, so people want to go,” Hackman continued. “Our pool is a little older, and it looks old. We had a leak in the pool last year. That was a big reason we opened so late.”
At its deepest depth, the Myerstown Community Pool is 12 feet, and it tapers off to three feet at its shallowest. There’s also a ‘baby pool’, a snack bar featuring pool-side fare, volleyball and ping pong, some playground equipment and a pavilion.
What the pool doesn’t have is a way for patrons to propel themselves into the water.
“They took the low diving board out three years ago,” said Hackman. “And they took the high diving board out about five years ago. There was always usually a line for the diving boards. But they couldn’t afford it because of insurance. I think our members wish we still had them. We get a lot of people asking, ‘What happened to your diving boards?’”
“I wouldn’t want to go to a pool that doesn’t have some sort of diving board or slide,” said Palazzari. “But I do understand why they took them out.”
The Myerstown Community Pool also offers swim lessons, water aerobics and private pool parties.
“It’s a great place for kids to come and get out of the house,” said Palazzari. “Parents can drop them off and pick them up. We just want to get people here. If there’s people at the pool, it makes you happy. Do you know what we don’t get? High school kids. Maybe they’re working. Maybe they’ve got better things to do.”
“I think younger kids just enjoy swimming,” said Hackman. ” I’d say they’re mostly from Myerstown, because kids can walk here. We want it to feel like it’s a family atmosphere, like it’s fun.”
Not unlike most community pools in Lebanon County, the William L. Derr pool’s future is a bit murky. If it is to continue to prosper, it must keep evolving to meet the wants and needs of its patrons.
“Last summer we opened late because we were doing work on the pool,” said Palazzari. “They painted the inside of the pool, and a lot of touch-up work. I would love them to do the entire place, and maybe put in some slides. I think that would draw more people for sure.’
“There are some things that make pools unique, like rock walls,” said Hackman. “You can climb them, and then fall back into the pool. It’s less of a liability. I’d like to see more of an amusement type feel here. It would make more people want to come.”
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