Maplewood will be expanding its efforts to provide affordable options for membership to the town pool — as well as continue free access to swim lessons for those in need — according to officials.
Pool fees remain high, however. A typical family membership for the community pool costs almost $500, although the Township Committee voted to reduce rates for guest passes this year, as compared to 2022.
Deputy Mayor Deborah Engel, who is also the recreation and pool committees liaison, reports, “We are looking at ways to make the pool more affordable. For this season, we are doing so the following four ways: 1. Continuing swim lessons for all — no need to be a member to sign up. More info on scheduling and registration coming soon; 2. Lowering the guest pass rate; 3. Opening the pool to non-members during heat waves; 4. Adding a $25,000 assistance line to the budget.”
During a preliminary budget discussion on March 21, TC members indicated that the $25,000 assistance line was sacrosanct — off the table for cut consideration as the township seeks to bring in a budget with a 3.5% tax levy increase for 2023.
Engel told Village Green, “It will be a recreation assistance fund that can be use for pool memberships. We are making the process easier this year to apply and receive funding, and hope adding money in the budget will ease the pressure of Pool Pals fundraising.”
In an email sent to residents on March 27, the township shared, “More information to come soon about our upcoming programming including Swim Lessons! For any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help you!”
Community members can continue to contribute to Pool Pals/Recreation Assistance Fund — which helps provide memberships to qualifying families — by visiting https://maplewood.recdesk.com/community/program.
The Maplewood Township Committee approved the fees for the Maplewood Community Pool for the 2023 summer season at its March 21 meeting. The fees remain high, a longtime point of contention in the township. Last year, Mayor Dean Dafis asked rhetorically, “What are we doing with our pool? Is it a community pool, as we say that it is, or is it a country club?” However, the pool, though subsidized by the town, operates on a separate budget line and has taken on major costs and debt in recent years due to needed upgrades.
Meanwhile, the issue of “swim equity” attracted additional attention last year, due to conversations around the conversion of the Columbia High School pool into a student commons. The CHS pool was shuttered in 2016 due to engineers declaring that it was in danger of imminent “catastrophic” collapse. Proponents for the renovation and restoration of the pool noted that all CHS students were once required to take swim lessons, and the loss of that program denied access to students whose families could not afford the town pool membership rates. Ultimately, the Board of Education leadership announced that it would not reconsider a renovation of the pool and would move forward with the student commons plan, due to costs.