NCCC pool: A valuable community resource

When I moved to Saranac Lake in 1978 from the Washington, D.C. area, I was delighted to learn there was a pool in the village open to the public.

My mid-Atlantic upbringing included swimming in the ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. Upon entering fresh water lakes for the first time I found the buoyancy I was used to while swimming in salt water had disappeared. I decided if I was going to live in a region filled with inviting, pristine bodies of water I needed to hone my water safety skills.

Luckily for me there was an extremely capable staff at NCCC’s pool (Suzanne Snyder, Karen Dailey, Joanne Branch, John Cuttaia and Grover Moore) who were key to encouraging me to become a better, stronger swimmer. They taught important water safety and survival skills.

Through a variety of life-long learning workshops, I mastered swimming strokes and techniques, developing a special confidence that stays with me to this day. Every time I head out to a pond, lake, or river to swim, kayak, or canoe I thank NCCC staff for the skills that make these joyful experiences a reality.

Additionally, I signed up for aerobic and other water exercise programs that were well attended during the five colder months of the year. My lap swims at the college were a welcome form of recreation during the frigid winter days and nights.

More importantly, I appreciated having the pool and capable instructors available to teach my son and other Saranac Lake youth how to swim and be safe in and around water. These instructional programs were extremely popular and filled up quickly. Parents were pleased with the learn-to-swim programs that built confidence and instilled a love for water sports at an early age.

I see even more reasons at this time to have a pool open year-round to teach us water skills and keep us in shape for new pursuits including wind-surfing, along with sail and paddle boarding, which call us to explore even the deepest waters when at play. We need to also consider the growing sport of family kayaking and recognize the peace of mind a parent would have knowing their child had been taught how to exit and safely escape from a submerged or over-turned kayak, as I was taught in the college’s pool.

Admittedly, I opt to swim in fresh water during the warmer months and prefer saline and oxygenated pools the rest of the year as I can no longer tolerate the effects of chlorine on my body. Paul Smith’s College offers an eco-friendly saline pool which is open to the public and is quite inviting to this resident, but I cannot justify a 28-mile round trip for a swim session.

As NCCC assesses future directions for the pool, perhaps a saline conversion would motivate more use of the pool and bring a more environmentally friendly resource to the campus. With today’s children dealing with an onslaught of chemical allergies, the availability of a saline pool could help increase use of the college’s facility.

With an update to the existing pool combined with a potential partnership with the YMCA, NCCC is poised to serve Franklin and Essex County by providing new opportunities for our youth to step away from overuse of electronic devices and engage in healthy physical activities while building social skills.

Sharon O’Brien is a former local school teacher who also worked in community development (VSL), economic development (ANCA) and historic preservation (HSL). She lives in Saranac Lake.