Officials have told District 82 Rep. Sarah Capp that Arkansas State Parks is working to find a solution to the closed swimming pool at Withrow Springs State Park (WSSP), located about 6 miles north of Huntsville.
Officials with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism last December decided that the pool would not be open this summer. That decision was based on an engineering report made last summer, which found safety issues at the pool.
Madison County’s only public pool, located just off Highway 23, was built in the late 1960s.
Capp, of Ozark, said in a text message last week that she’s been in communication with the department regarding local concerns over the pool’s closure.
“I’ve relayed to Parks and Tourism the feedback I’ve received from constituents, [which] has overwhelmingly been a request to have access to a swimming pool.”
Capp said the state does not want a “quick-fix” to the situation.
“Kane Webb, director of [Parks and Tourism], assured me they were working diligently to get the issue fixed, ‘not band-aided,’ and would do what was best for the park, community and safety of the guests,” Capp said.
Capp added that state officials told her they’re looking at Withrow Springs as a whole, not just the pool.
“They are looking at updating all the facilities at WSSP to see if it would be more efficient to upgrade or renovate other facilities at the park at the same time,” Capp wrote in her text. “As far as funding, design and construction, it’s on [Arkansas State Parks’] priority infrastructure and rehabilitation list.”
Meg Matthews, public information coordinator for Arkansas State Parks, said by email that research continues into the situation.
“We are looking at various possibilities for the future use of the pool and/or its location, however we are still deep into research to determine the best use of taxpayer dollars and the needs of our visitors,” Matthews said.
Capp posted on Facebook last month that she was informed by state officials that a design professional will create a “scope of work for the pool and other park facilities.” Jordan Thomas, a planner with Arkansas State Parks Planning and Development, told The Record earlier this summer that the park may or may not include a pool in the future.
District 97 state Rep. Bob Ballinger, whose district includes the state park, said Madison County needs a water feature.
“We have lots of beautiful creeks and streams and the lake nearby, but for a lot of folks, they swim in a swimming pool, and that was our only option in Madison County,” he said by telephone.
Ballinger said he wishes residents had been given more notice of the pool closing.
“The only thing that I’d say has really disappointed me about this process is that we didn’t know about the situation earlier,” he said. “If we had known about it, we could have at least had people prepared for this summer.”
Capp said it’s also possible that the city or county partner with the state to offer a water feature.
“It’s been discussed partnering with the city or county on a splash pad or pool,” Capp wrote in her text. “Those discussions are very preliminary, though, and I do not know the viability of such at this time.”
Cassie Elliott, a grant writer who works with the City of Huntsville, said in a public hearing last Monday that the city is pursuing a grant for a water project. She said the city is interested in pursuing a matching 50-50 grant from the state to fund a splash pad – with plans for it to be installed behind the city-owned Basham building – but that a pool could also be feasible through the grant.
Ballinger said last week that people have “overwhelmingly” voiced support of a pool, and that many who have reached out to him “would love a splash pad, but at the same time they’d also like a pool.”
The engineering report last summer found safety concerns at the deck and the maintenance room, which is below the deck. One entrance was closed to employees and a sign was posted. The pool remained open last summer after the engineer’s report, and officials voted in December to close it indefinitely.