Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pool cue

It seems like every month lately, Lousie Goldstein begins pining for the Victoria Pool to open early. Just as the spring flowers begin to poke through the thawing earth, it seems like the co-founder of the Save the Victoria Pool Society hits the media circuit with pleas –even demands –for the State Park administration to add a few more weeks to either end of the pool season.

And it’s high time the bastards begin listening.

The Victoria Pool, much like the park it inhabits, is a treasure to both Saratoga Springs and New York as a whole. Seldom is there a person who visits the pool’s sun drenched deck nestled in a piney grove and leaves without feeling replenished in some way shape or form. It is a unique place where plutocrats freely mix with plebeians and the only discerning factor between the two is who managed to claim rights to the sparsely numbered lounge chairs.

The Victoria Pool was built in 1935 as an excercise component part of the state-owned hydrotherapy resort, which also included the mineral bathes, the springs and the Gideon Putnam Hotel. Visitors were expected to drink spa’s medicinal spring waters, bathe in the mineral water and give their muscles a gentle workout at Victoria.

When the spa was incorporated into the state park system in 1962, the pool started a slow descent into what many considered abject decay. By the turn of the century, what was once known as the nation’s first heated public pool became renowned for its frosty waters. Everything from the fountains to the surrounding brick work showed marked deterioration; the innerworkings also showed age, rupturing once in August 2o03 to shut down both the park's pools for a spell.

Earlier that year, Goldstein and Andrew Jennings, two of the pool’s frequent visitors, formed the Victoria Pool society to lobby for marked state improvements to the structure. After six months of heavy lobbying, the parks administration announced an 18-month $1.5 million renovation project to restore “the Vic” back to its former grandeur, including the once-heated water.

Now that the renovations are done, Goldstein and her organization are petitioning for a few extra days in the season to enjoy them, as well they should. But state park officials can’t seem to open the pool until late June at the earliest, and then refuses to keep it open past Labor Day. They claim this is to keep up on the necessary regiment of maintenance needed to ensure the pool’s water quality and the grounds are properly tended.

While there may be a hint of truth to this, the bottom line is more likely economics. In years of running the pool, the parks administration has realized it makes no money in May, early June or September. So rather than subsidize a loss-leader among other areas of the park that do make money, the economic thing is to shut it down, regardless of the public will.

Problem is the public owns Victoria; it always has, it always will. It was built by the public under Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration and has been funded by the public for more than seven decades. So when the public is asking –rather demanding –more time to enjoy its property, the state is obligated make a concession at the very least.

In this case, how much would it hurt to open the gates a week earlier than normal and keep them open a week later? Not much. Could it be done? Certainly. Will it happen? Well, that’s up to the public. As Goldstein and her organization have proven, people talk and politicians generally ignore them; but when groups shout, their feet get moving pretty quickly.


Anonymous Peter Jennings said...

As a taxpayer I am repelled by the likes of Louise Goldstein and Andrew Jennings. For their personal gratification, the taxpayers of NY have to pony up more money to open the Victoria Pool EARLY!
Why don't these spoiled people build their own pools, which they can open and close at will.
I don't like having to pay for their frivolity.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


Yes, there is a bit of frivolity in the Victoria Pool, I admit. But it’s frivolity you and I will pay for one way or another, so it would be nice to enjoy it for a bit longer than the 60-some-odd days out of the 365 its open. Also keep in mind: those who USE the pool jump in, that’s more than enough to fund one of the lifeguards working there. After all, those are the folks the state would be funding above and beyond the normal crew already working the park. The bottom line: opening the pool for two extra weeks a year would cause roughly the same tax impact as a single grain of sand would on the luster of a speeding tractor trailer truck.

And as the middle-class continues to shrink at an alarming rate in Saratoga Springs –and the state in general –there are an increasing number of folks who can’t afford homes or the property to build a pool, much less to buy and maintain it. The Vic gives these folks a chance to enjoy the fine life for a moment and away from the screaming masses of tikes who swarm the hard-scrabble urine-warm Peerless Pool each summer.

The bottom line: this is a quality of life issue. While there is plenty of state spending that frankly revolts me on many levels –take for instance the cash New Yorkers are giving Saratoga County for its water line –this is one I’ll suck up, work the extra hour and stand behind. Take a trip to the pool this summer, sip a gin and tonic amid the white pines and you’ll understand why. Keep reading and keep posting. Dialogue is the sunshine of a bright democracy.


6:43 AM  
Blogger save the victoria pool society said...

Save the Victoria Pool Society is most grateful for your coverage on behalf of all those who looked longingly at any empty pool on a truly spectacular Memorial Day weekend. We celebrate all citizens who signed our petition and to NYS Parks who heard our pleas and are opening Victoria Pool on June 16. Thank goodness for the Press and Blogs.
Save the Victoria Pool Society

5:03 PM  
Blogger save the victoria pool society said...

Saratoga Spa State Park and its magnificent buildings,pools and 2500 acres could be the most wonderful place in America. It has springs, historic architecture, nature- second to none. The good and wonderful citizens of Saratoga Springs need to wake up and smell the pine trees. We applaud everyone of the hundreds who signed our petition.
Save the Victoria Pool society

5:25 AM  
Anonymous balabushka cues said...

nice blog. thank you.

11:10 PM  

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