Status: Progress Made
6/10: It appears that the recent change in Village Council, combined with municipal fiscal constraints, has put the proposal to modernize Graydon Pool on hold indefinitely. The Village’s recent layoff of 27 employees was cited at a June 9 meeting as evidence that limited finances would prevent any modernization project from moving forward at this time, even if the RFP were issued, which it has not been.
In addition, Graydon Pool’s membership has improved so far this year. A total of 2,972 badges sold by June 30 represents an increase of 1,200 badges over last year’s sales by the same date.
Graydon Park is at the heart of the Village of Ridgewood – its seven acres of open space provide an oasis of green parkland for the residents of this densely developed suburb. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, this historic park is home to a threatened unique resource – Graydon Pool. This 2.68-acre natural, sandy-bottomed spring-fed swimming pond, was constructed in 1926 as part of a larger national movement to create municipal parks and pools to promote community interaction. The pool (or pool/lake, called a “plake”) was enlarged to its current size as part of a Works Progress Administration project in 1936. Today, WPA-era improvements, including the current badge office building, constructed as a bathhouse, and the fieldstone wall encircling the pool and center island, remain largely intact. Graydon Pool is at risk of being demolished and replaced with a concrete swimming pool, or pools. The Village Council announced last summer their decision to issue a Request for Proposals to “modernize” the facility. Recent Village Council elections look favorable for Graydon’s preservation, but future plans remain undefined.
This move to demolish Graydon Pool and replace it with a “traditional” pool or pools is being spearheaded by a local group called the Ridgewood Pool Project (RPP). Supporters of replacement make the argument that the pool is unhealthy and unsafe because it uses “well water,” and as a swimming pond, is subject to less stringent state water quality standards than a concrete municipal swimming pool. They point to poor water quality as the source of declining membership statistics in recent years. Supporters of the pool’s preservation, led by the Preserve Graydon Coalition, assert that many pools in the area, both sandy and concrete, have seen membership numbers decline. In Graydon’s case, they maintain that this drop has resulted from overall economic conditions, inadequate funding and support for maintenance and staff training, and most significantly, misinformation about the pool’s water quality. The local advocates assert that testing demonstrates that elements of Graydon’s water actually meet stricter state water quality standards for concrete public pools, but that the inaccurate perception that clean water must be clear has scared potential members away. Recently, the Village has adopted innovative water treatment technology to keep the water much clearer. While the water in a sandy-bottomed pool will never be as clear as the water in a concrete pool, this does not mean that the water is unhealthy.
The fact that Graydon Pool is not a typical concrete municipal pool should be a strong argument in favor of, not against, saving this historically significant resource. Graydon should be preserved so that future generations will be able to enjoy the summer experience of swimming from the sandy banks of this long-time Ridgewood landmark in the green, lush surrounds of Graydon Park.
Graydon Pool’s preservation makes long-term financial sense. Graydon’s lifespan, as a natural bottomed “plake,” is without limit, if properly maintained. In comparison, a concrete pool has a limited lifespan, and requires significantly more maintenance, including chemicals, equipment, and treatment, further increasing the operational costs of a concrete pool. The undetermined upfront expenses of this proposed project add to the economic concerns. In this time of stretched municipal budgets, PNJ sees replacing the landmark Graydon Pool as a shortsighted use of limited resources.
As the sustainability movement grows, it seems logical that pools like Graydon, free of the chemical overload required to keep the water in concrete pools clear, be treasured and celebrated as models for sustainable development. Why shouldn’t Ridgewood’s current municipal pool stand as a statewide “green” model?
It is the opportunity for interaction with unique resources such as Graydon that gives Ridgewood its “sense of place” and makes this village attractive to residents and visitors alike. The experience of swimming at Graydon is a unique opportunity to interact with nature and history. PNJ encourages Ridgewood’s municipal leaders to recognize the significance of this resource and use this to promote the site. Discussions with the caretakers of other natural pools, such as Ringwood right here in New Jersey, to learn what they are doing to remain viable, could also help. PNJ believes that proper maintenance and care, combined with accurate public education and marketing that promotes and celebrates this Ridgewood landmark, could hold the keys to saving Graydon Pool as a viable and historic community resource.