by ROB GLIDDEN
The wading pool at Paderewski Park was closed earlier this year in part for being out of compliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and now the empty structure represents a past that Plainville and other communities across America have surpassed in terms of accessibility.
The lack of practical options for users with physical disabilities to get into the pool made it a candidate for closure when the department was restructuring its budget.
“To make a slope-entry for a 40-year-old pool would be quite costly,” said Recreation Director Colin Regan. “It has had a very useful life, but at this point we would rather put a different structure there.”
In tough economic times, it can be difficult to get funding for a non-essential expense like a pool. Regan said the department would like to update it with a modern replacement if granted the funds by Plainville’s officials. In the meantime, swimmers in town have other options.
The pool in Norton Park is a stark contrast with the now-closed pool at Paderewski Park. It was named after the late Elizabeth Berner, whose husband left $1.2 million to the town of Plainville with instructions that a pool be built in his wife’s honor. A committee designed the specifics of the pool and the project was completed in 1996.
“That pool at Norton Park is phenomenal,” said Shawn Cohen, director of Plainville’s senior center. “Also, a lot of recreation places now have parking and trails that are handicapped-accessible. Things have changed a lot in terms of accessibility because of the ADA laws.”
The Berner pool has a “zero entry” which resembles the shore of a lake. With no stairs or ladders to worry about, anyone can gradually enter the pool regardless of accessibility concerns. This approach is also regarded as safer for children.
“Back then, we actually weren’t thinking of the Americans With Disabilities Act when we designed it,” said Kim Crowley, the town’s Assistant Recreation Director and Aquatic Director. “It was meant to be easy for toddlers to come in. One of the best things about that pool is how easy it becomes to teach all levels of swimming. I think it gets more use than a traditional pool would.”
PARC Executive Director Linda Garcia commented that the ADA and its subsequent revisions have resulted in improvements within the realm of accessibility, but its authority is limited.
“The [ADA] has been really good,” Garcia said. “However, if a building is not a public organization they are not obligated to have the accessibility, even if it’s a group with members who might need it.”
One private organization in Plainville, the Wheeler Regional Family YMCA, has also offered a zero entry pool since 2004, which has been used to accommodate groups of children with special needs. The YMCA also plans to add a hydraulic lift to the pool within the next few months.
“It gives anyone the opportunity to come in and gain the benefits of spending time in the water,” said Amanda Robles, the Y’s Director of Aquatics. “It’s been great to be able to accommodate them.”
by ROB GLIDDEN