SUBMITTED PHOTO Belvidere Republican
The future of the William Grady Pool is in doubt without input from the people who use it.

By Anne Eickstadt

Editor

Is the William Grady Pool important to you? Would you like to see it remain open for another 20 years? Would you like to see improvements with added water slides and games, new locker rooms and washrooms? Without input from the people who use it most, the Belvidere Park District can only guess at what this community wants and needs.

“We are making attempts to engage the public about the community needs for aquatics for future planning,” said Mark Pentecost, Executive Director of the Belvidere Park District.

“We know William Grady Pool, as it is today, requires about $2.5 million to get us through another 20 years as it is today without new features – locker rooms, washrooms, slides. That money would only take care of the mechanics and the infrastructure to keep it running. We know this because in 2016 we conducted a technical support study. We started attempts to engage the public on what they wanted for aquatics because we didn’t want to invest $2.5 million and get nothing new for it.

“Those efforts received a lukewarm response. The initial meeting had a good turnout of about 50 people. Most of those people disengaged when they realized that we were not closing the pool immediately. So the board committed to keeping the William Grady Pool operative for another five years (until the end of summer 2022). We hired a consulting firm to perform a feasibility study. Now we need to assess the situation.

“We are trying to get back to the table with the community. We are looking for seven to nine residents of the Belvidere Park District to engage with us and give us their opinions. We will hold a series of about eight meetings over the next seven to nine months. This process will help us identify what the community wants in the way of an aquatic facility.

“We are trying to find out what different types of aquatics amenities people in the community would like to have; their likes and dislikes of our current aquatic offerings and programs; and the location of a future aquatics facility.

“We do have funding mechanisms we can reach out to for the funding for what we decide on but we need to hear from the community who utilize our programs and amenities about the pros and cons of the old structure vs. a new facility/structure.

“The committee will be facilitated by the JEO Consulting Group and they will make all recommendations to the board at the end of the process. Public-provided feedback will dictate if aquatics is important to this community or not.

“Does this community want or need an aquatics facility? If this is important to the community, what direction do we take it? If it is not important, do we still try to keep the William Grady Pool open or not?

“We are also launching a survey online through our website and will place hard copies out in the community to reach more people. We need community opinions to learn what this community wants or needs before we spend millions of dollars to develop a project nobody wants. Without a project we cannot get a grant. We are trying to 1.) Estimate the need for an aquatics facility, 2.) Design the project, and 3.) Go after funding.

“We need all three before start anything. The new facility might cost $8 to 10 million since our study was several years ago. We already have land available for wherever we locate the new facility – aquatics facilities tend to become fairly boisterous and could disturb the peacefulness of Belvidere Park – we need to know what the community wants. There is a tremendous amount of strategic partners in the community that would benefit from a new or refurbished facility, such as schools and the YMCA.

“We only have four volunteers on our committee at this point. We would like another 20 people to join them so we can have a good representation of the whole community we serve. We are looking for as good a cross-section of the community as possible.”

The requirements to serve on this committee are:

-Resident of Belvidere, Belvidere Township, or Boone County

-Any adult that would have interest in aquatic recreation

-Commitment would be to participate in a series of about eight meetings over the course of seven to nine months working with our consulting group.

Is the William Grady Pool important to you? Would you like to see it remain open for another 20 years? Would you like to see improvements with added water slides and games, new locker rooms and washrooms? Would you prefer to see it replaced, or add a new indoor aquatics facility? Do you enjoy the current aquatics programs or should the Belvidere Park District change them?

Let your opinion be heard before the Belvidere Park District decides the community does not want or need aquatics programs and an improved facility for kids to play in during the summer and where students can practice for competitions.

To express your interest in helping develop the park’s aquatics facility and programs, contact Mark Pentecost, Executive Director by calling 815-547-5711 ext. 22 or email him at markpentecost@belviderepark.org.

 
 
 
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