State aims to open Withrow pool by Memorial Day weekend

Ederle Klaassen, office manager at Withrow Springs State Park, works the front counter of the park’s gift shop Tuesday afternoon.

The goal for starting construction to repair the Withrow Park swimming pool - which was closed last season - is April 1, according to chief planner Jordon Thomas with the Arkansas State Parks.

Thomas said construction drawings for the repair project have been completed and given over to another state agency for an “expedited review.”

Thomas said he’s “optimistic and crossing [his] fingers” that the pool will be open by Memorial Day, which will be May 27.

“Our plan is to start soliciting bids sometime in mid- to late-March, hoping that construction will commence in late March or early April, and then our deadline for the construction project for completion ... at least enough to have the pool open, is going to be the Friday before Memorial Day,” Thomas said recently from Little Rock. “We’re still shooting for that direction. Hopefully our park staff can get ready and work with us to try to get everything going so the good folks up there can enjoy the pool this summer.”

Initial estimates to repair the pool, which opened in the 1960s, ranged from about $140,000 up to $170,000.

“We hope it’s only as bad as that initial estimate,” Thomas said last October.

Thomas said in October that the project to repair the pool was approved by Grady Spann, director of state parks.

In June 2017, Tatum Smith Engineers in Rogers sent a report to CEI of Bentonville detailing problems at the pool. It recommended “demolition and replacement of the northeast portion of pool deck and exterior mechanical room wall.”

The pool stayed open until Labor Day in 2017 after the problems were discovered.

“The east wall of the mechanical room provides an immediate threat to life safety and welfare of the public and should be fenced off and inaccessible for the general public as well as pool employees or maintenance workers,” the report said.

Park employees had restricted access to the main pool mechanical room door and were instructed to use an alternate door.

Jeff King, chief planner of the planning and development section of the Arkansas State Parks, wrote in December 2017 that the pool should be closed “for the upcoming season.” The park posted on its website in early 2018 that the pool would not open for the season, which runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Thomas said Phase 1 of the project would be repairs that would allow the pool to be opened this spring. Phase 2 would include other repairs and changes at the pool, which remains the only public swimming pool in Madison County.

“The scope right now is just the repairs of the pool walls that are having failure, and then a replacement of the pool deck immediately above that filter room,” Thomas said. “After that, we’ll probably go into a longer process of looking at some design alternatives for the pool area itself.”

Phase 2 would “make the space more functional for park staff and groups” using the facility.

“We thought it was better to go ahead and get the basics done and from there we’ll look at future options,” he said.

Getting the designs completed “has been an involved process because we’ve had to have several different consultants involved, from structural to mechanical and plumbing,” Thomas said.

“We’re going to end up replacing some of the mechanical equipment down there. It was a little dated when we got down there and started looking at it ... that added a little bit of time for the design phase,” he said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hopefully we’ll be able to satisfy everybody’s desire to get in some cool water this summer.”

Withrow Springs State Park is located about 6 miles north of Huntsville.

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