Home Grottoes pool still closed, but foundation stepping up to try to get doors open

Grottoes pool still closed, but foundation stepping up to try to get doors open

pool closed sign
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Families throughout the region will spend the holiday weekend making memories at pools in Staunton, Waynesboro, Elkton, New Hope, Stuarts Draft and Harrisonburg. In Grottoes, the town pool at Grand Caverns remains closed. However, a group of citizens have stepped up to do something about it.

In 2023, the Grottoes Town Council voted to permanently close the pool, which has been operating for more than 50 years, citing issues with an expansion joint and staffing shortages.

The Grottoes Pool Preservation Foundation has 15 board members and approximately 50 active supporters all with one goal – to get the pool back open for families.

“We’ve got people in our community that are third-generation swimmers at that pool, said Maite Taylor, president of the Grottoes Pool Preservation Foundation and a member of the town’s planning commission. “You’ve got grandparents and children who have had children who have all learned to swim in that pool. The level of support here is significant.”

Taylor went to Harrisonburg High School and James Madison University. Her husband and her bought their first home in Grottoes. They were drawn to the area in part due to the beautiful town park and the nearby pool. That was more than 20 years ago.

“I have been going to that pool since we’ve lived here,” Taylor told AFP. “We were season pool pass holders for multiple years in a row. I’ve got two kids now, and we were regularly going to that pool.”

The news about the closure of the pool “was a shock for the whole community.”

She said the town had recently spent $300,000 of taxpayer money to renovate the pool before COVID adding swim lanes, a kid area, mushroom water features for a splash zone and a giant walk-in entrance. Taylor feels strongly that if the town council members had reached out to the community to voice the costs to keep the pool open, the community would have stepped up to help, and the shutdown could have been avoided entirely.

The pushback from residents came first as a Change.org petition. After word spread, people contacted Taylor to ask how they could help.

The group plans to meet with the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge to discuss their potential help while the organization waits on its 501 (c) 3 status.

Taylor said that Grottoes Town Councilors have floated a $200,000 price tag as what is needed to fix and reopen the pool. The foundation has set that amount as a goal but thinks the actual cost will be much less. There is still the repair needed to the expansion joint, Taylor said, and now, because the pool was drained, some plaster work is needed. They have an appointment scheduled with pool professionals in August to have all the equipment tested and determine the actual cost to move forward with repairs.

She said one corporation has pledged $10,500 toward the effort. With fundraisers and the pledge, she said they have approximately $20,000 in commitments. The goal is to raise the money needed for repairs by the end of 2024 and then begin preparation to open again in 2025.

The foundation hopes to make additional improvements to the pool house, lifeguard station, ticket booth and snack area. The snack area could potentially help support some of the costs to run the pool “so that is not seen as a money pit but as a revenue-generating opportunity.”

The nonprofit is in this for the long term, Taylor said. After the pool is back open, they plan to continue fundraising for future needs at the pool. She also hopes the town and businesses will step in with funds to keep to the pool open for future generations.

Taylor doesn’t think the town council recognized the level of the support the community had for its pool and the public outcry in the aftermath of its vote.

“It’s not just a place to swim,” Taylor said. “It’s a gathering ground in the summer for families and children and teenagers and friends. And there’s memories that have been made there.

“It’s unfortunate that this has not been viewed as an important amenity in our community and is being viewed as a fiduciary liability.”

Related story

Town of Grottoes votes to close Grand Caverns pool, citing leaks, staffing issues
Published date: March 21, 2023 | 5:35 pm

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.