TERRE HAUTE -- Wednesday marked the last day of public swimming at Ruble Lake in Fowler Park.
That leaves just Deming Park in Terre Haute as the lone, dedicated public swimming area for the county and city.
"We know people want to swim. This has nothing to do with a priority of swimming and whether or not we wanted swimming, this was the time we had to start lowering the lake to get projects done," said Adam Grossman, superintendent of the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department.
Lowering of the lake's level by 7 feet is required to start a complete refurbishment of The Irishman's Bridge. The iconic covered bridge in the park is near collapse on one end and must be entirely rebuilt.
While the lake is lowered, the parks department also will rebuild the beach area with new sand and repair water mains at a beach house on the lake, Grossman said.
"School is starting again in about three weeks and Labor Day is the only really busy weekend we felt we would miss out on," Grossman said.
"We wanted to started to lowering the lake weeks ago, but we limped through the July 4 weekend. We wanted to make sure we kept it open at least through July 4 and we kept it open longer than we projected, as we had intended to close in June."
The lake, Grossman said, would have only be open for swimming on weekends after the start of school. Vigo County schools start Aug 6.
The Vigo County Parks and Recreation Board in 2017 approved closing the Hawthorn Park beach, citing a concern of vandalism and resources.
"We had to pool our resources into one facility and had to make a choice," Grossman said of having one beach instead of two swimming beaches in the parks system.
Deming is last city pool
In Terre Haute, the Deming Park pool is open daily until Aug. 6. During that time, the pool is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
From Aug. 10 to Sept. 1, the pool will be open on Saturdays and Sundays only from noon to 6 p.m.
The city's Park Board in 2016 voted to close Deming Pool, citing declining attendance and revenue, coupled with increasing expenses. However, the pool reopened in 2017 after about $55,000 was spent on maintenance.
Vigo County officials contributed $30,000 of that in county funds to help with reopening the city pool.
The city once had three pools that opened in 1962.
Voorhees Park pool was closed in 2006 due to maintenance costs and low attendance. The Sheridan Park pool, also due to maintenance costs, was permanently closed in 2011.
Voorhees Park is home to an aquatics center owned and operated by the Vigo County School Corporation. It offers limited hours for lap swimming several days a week.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said the city remains committed to providing venues for public swimming and other water recreation.
“We put money into the Deming Park pool to keep it open,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we had one [pool]. We've maintained the Deming pool and it is operating just fine.”
Bennett said other city pools were closed because they were not being utilized. The facility at Sheridan Park, for example, had an average daily attendance of just two people when it was closed.
Future splash pad
Splash pads have become more popular in recent years. Bennett said a privately funded pad at Booker T. Washington Park on South 13th Street is expected to open later this year thanks to the efforts of Chances and Services for Youth.
Brandon Halleck, executive director of Chances, confirmed the status of the park, which will feature a water cannon and 25 above ground sprayers. The park is being built thanks to donations, volunteer labor and local and state grants, Halleck said.
Mayor Bennett said the city's "park plan has identified a need for additional splash pads. We've just not been in a financial position to be able to move things like that forward."
With the ongoing improvement in city finances, the administration will identify locations for additional pads “in the next year or so,” the mayor said.
Negotiations with YMCA
Negotiations continue with YMCA of the Wabash Valley to re-open the indoor pool in Fairbanks Park and Bennett said he is “extremely optimistic” a final agreement will be reached soon.
Looking long term, Bennett envisions a “destination type” facility with indoor and outdoor pools.
“That's one of the first things on my list for potential revenue from a casino,” he said.
Reporter Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or at email@example.com. Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.