Since it opened in 1966, the Nokomis Memorial Park Pool has been an oasis for children in Nokomis and the surrounding areas, offering an escape from the heat of the summer and the thoughts of returning to school in just a few short weeks. But if something isn't done soon, 2019 might be the last year for the symbol of summer.
"I've been telling people who have been coming that this may be the last year for the pool," said pool manager Julia Crowe. "If we don't get this grant, we won't be able to continue running the pool."
The desperate situation is the result of several leaks in the pool that have resulted in increased water costs for the Nokomis Park Board over the last few years.
"We lose about six to eight inches of water a day if we don't have the pump running," Crowe said. "We've been fighting the leaks for about two years, if not longer, and they're just too much now."
The park district has looked at several options in remedying the problems, none of which are cheap, but as of now, the plan is to redo the pool so it may last another 50-plus years.
The other option was to install a liner for the pool, which was quoted at $70,000 to $100,000 and only had a limited guarantee for certain types of damage.
The projected cost of redoing the pool completely is estimated to be around $650,000, but the park district is applying for a federal grant, which would cut the cost in half.
"We're still going to use the shell of the pool, but everything will be new. The pump needs to be replaced; it's from the '60s," Crowe said.
The new pool would be smaller than the current one, but would have several new features, including a slide with a plunge area, a splash pad and a zero-entry area, which would make the pool more accessible.
While the pool will lose it's current "L" shape, which would dramatically increase the cost, it will have two diving boards, which were bought two years ago and are going to be reused from the current pool.
The loss of the pool would not only be a loss to the youth of Nokomis, but it would also cost 11 to 14 lifeguard jobs and could have a negative impact on Nokomis restaurants and other businesses.
"We see anywhere from 2,700 to 3,300 visitors a year. That's June through the middle of August," Crowe said. "We have people that come from Morrisonville, Raymond and Witt. We've even had people come from Pana and Hillsboro, even though they have their own pool."
The impact that the pool has on the community is evident from a post made on Facebook detailing the problems that the pool is facing. The post received 131 shares, 128 likes and 57 comments, many from people who offered their help in saving the pool.
While fundraising for the Nokomis Park District's half of the cost has not begun, the project already received a generous donation from the Omicron Delta chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, who contributed $5,000 to help with the grant application fee.
Crowe said that she expects fundraising to ramp up in the fall, once the grant picture is more clear, but knows that the reach will have to extend past the town's borders.
"Dorothy Archibald said that they raised $152,000 last time and they had to ask a lot of people, not just Nokomis people," said Crowe, referring to the 2003 renovation campaign done by the Precepter Epsilon Nu sorority.
Raising the money will take a lot of hard work, nothing new to the people who take care of the site that holds so many fond memories for the people of Nokomis.
"I spent homecoming going around and getting signatures," said Crowe, whose daughter Jorgia used to accompany her to the pool when she first started as manager more than a decade ago and is now a lifeguard. "Almost all of the people in the park district are volunteers. Bob and Tyler Batty volunteer their time every year to come and work on this pool. That's not a paid position. It shows their dedication."
Hopes are high that dedication will be contagious when it comes time to raise the funds for the pool. If that doesn't happen, a key part of summer may be no more.
"If we don't get this grant, I don't know what they'll do, as far as how long they'll stay open," Crowe said. "Right now, I'm not sure if they'll open up next year."