Don’t close college pool

North Country Community College is considering closing the swimming pool and has asked the community for input. The board should be commended for seeking public comment, and I am commenting publicly.

I think closing the swimming pool is a terrible idea!

I am a local eye doctor who has practiced in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid since 1972. When choosing a place to live, the college swimming pool was a positive factor in my choice since I have always enjoyed swimming for exercise. Now, 46 years later, I still use the pool at least weekly from September through June. I know of other residents who considered the pool when moving here.

The recent Enterprise article states, “Students reportedly do not use the pool often. It’s not open to the public for long during the day because few swimmers come around.” In my experience, this is not true. Usually there are a number of swimmers in the pool when I go, and most or all of the swimming lanes are full. Some have multiple swimmers in them. I am semi-retired, so I don’t even go at peak hours when people are off work or at lunch. Regarding hours, I think the pool is open for plenty of hours. The following is the schedule for fall 2018 to illustrate that point.

¯ Monday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

¯ Tuesday, noon to 5 p.m.

¯ Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

¯ Thursday, noon to 6 p.m.

¯ Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

¯ Saturday, 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.

¯ Sunday, 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The pool is a valuable asset to the community and, some would argue, under-utilized. As you are aware, there are hundreds of lakes in our area. Thousands of people use these lakes for recreation. The ability to swim is integral to the safety of people using the lakes. This is particularly true for local people. Eliminating the pool would rob the community of the opportunity to teach people swimming 10 months of the year. Some colleges and universities feel so strongly about the importance of swimming that they require basic swimming skills for graduation. For example:

¯ MIT: Swim 100 yards, no time restriction.

¯ Cornell University: Swim three lengths in the 25-yard swimming pool, at least one on front and one on back, no time restriction.

¯ Columbia University: Swim 75 yards, no time restriction.

¯ Bryn Mawr College: Swim continuously for 10 minutes, float on back for one minute, and tread water for one minute.

¯ Washington and Lee University: Swim 50 yards in one minute, and tread water for five minutes.

¯ Dartmouth College: Swim 50 yards, no time restriction.

¯ University of Notre Dame: Swim 100 yards, two on front and two on back, no time restriction.

In addition, the ability to train lifeguards for summer camps and New York state campground positions has been a valuable service provided by the college. It needs to be continued.

Several years ago, I accompanied my grandchildren to swimming lessons at the college. The sessions were crowded with children whose parents wanted them to learn to swim. The biggest problem I could see with that program is the large number of kids per instructor. The instructors did not have much time to work with each child individually. I understand plans are in the works for the YMCA to become involved in a local aquatics program. If the YMCA could become involved with a swimming program, it would be greatly appreciated by the community as more instruction would likely be available for the many community children wishing swimming lessons. Instruction should be provided on more days with more instructors and smaller classes.

The Tri-Lakes region is fortunate to be the site of three major triathlon events, including two in Lake Placid and one in Tupper Lake. There are many local competitors who participate in these races. Triathlon training is nearly a year-round activity. Triathletes from our area need to train in a pool for months before their big event. If the college pool were to close, other options in Paul Smiths and Plattsburgh involve additional burden in time, inconvenience and expense.

You should be concerned about the impact of a poor closure on recruiting of new students. If I were a potential student and heard the pool was being closed, it would have a negative effect on my consideration of your college. I would view this as a curtailment of previously offered opportunities. I would wonder what else you were cutting back on as well. I might ask myself if this college is on a downward spiral.

I understand you have received a grant of $1.1 million to be used partly for a fitness center. I would see prudent to invest part of this money in upgrading the pool rather than “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

I see a future where the pool could be utilized to a greater degree than it is now and both the students and the community would benefit. I hope you will agree and keep the swimming pool for the community and the college students.

Richard L. Erenstone, O.D., lives in Lake Placid.