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Aerial view of the Eads Swimming Pool built in July 1959. It was permanently closed in 2019.

Town of Eads Dives in! A Swimming Pool is in Our Future

By Betsy Barnett

July 13, 2022

At the regularly scheduled July meeting of the Town of Eads a long discussion resulted in the council voting unanimously to commit the required initial investment of $80,000 in order to move forward with building a new swimming pool in Eads.

The story of the Eads Swimming Pool extends out some 70 years to the early 1950s. At the time, the Town of Eads was growing, and it was a period of prosperity. During the summers the community members could be found at the many lakes and ponds in the area cooling off from the intense heat of June, July and August. Through the years some close calls had occurred and there were a few drownings in the lake or in animal watering tanks, but on a hot day in July 1953 a child and an adult, both prominent in the community, drowned in an incident at the lakes that shook the town of Eads to its very core.

The Rainbow girls were having a party with their parents out at the lakes and some girls were swimming when all of sudden frantic screaming and crying could be heard coming from the water. One of the girls, Louella Richardson, had walked off a deep ledge, panicked, and had gone under. Two of the adult sponsors at the outing, Joe Barnett and Julius Lancaster quickly jumped in and began frantically diving down into the deep, dark waters trying in vain to find the girl. Sadness enveloped the community of Eads when the news spread that a child, Louella Richardson, and a brave adult who had tried to save her, Julius Lancaster both drowned.

Two weeks later, Phillip Johnson went swimming on his fifteenth birthday in a large hole at the edge of town, the result of excavation work that had recently been finished. Unexpected heavy rains had filled the hole with water, covering the steep, abrupt walls that plunged to a depth of 18 feet. No one in Eads was a good enough swimmer to go down to such a depth and bring Phillip to the surface.

Three deaths in just two weeks—two just teenage kids and the other a well-liked veteran and civil servant of the town—rocked the town to its core, haunting conversations in the months that followed with the knowledge that something could be and should be done

The community responded with grit and determination and decided that tragedy would never happen again as they would, by gosh, build a community swimming pool that would be safe for all citizens and manned by trained lifeguards. The project began in 1954 and took some time as farmers would bring in their digging equipment after the planting and harvesting was done and they would work until the winter weather forced them off the project. But a few years later, on July 11, 1959, the pool opened with a huge community party and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since that time, four generations of children have spent their hot summer days happily splashing in the 1,250 square foot pool. Hundreds of children have learned to swim at the Eads Swimming Pool. Dozens of teenagers have had their first jobs as lifeguards at the pool. Hundreds of mothers have been more than thankful to have a place for their children to safely play, to enjoy the great outdoors, to cool off on the long, hot summer days and be with their friends.

The Eads Swimming Pool—despite its small size—was the iconic structure for every person who grew up in Eads. Every baby to every elderly person in the town throughout the past 65 years received benefit from going to the swimming pool.

Sadly, the end came 60 years later as in the summer of 2019 the Eads Swimming Pool was considered too dangerous to re-open the next summer. The wall lining had ruptured, the pipes were rusted out and most of the internal workings of the pool would have to be replaced. In addition, the old pool building was in terrible condition and would require a great deal of money to update. The decision to close the pool had a lasting effect on the community and now, for the past three summers, as the pool sits in dejected deterioration, the people of the town and surrounding areas, but the children particularly, have been left without a place to cool off, a place to learn how to swim, a place to get some exercise, a place to have fun with friends, a place to learn how to be an employee—a community swimming pool.

Even worse, there’s no going back to the old pool. According to Van Brown, Town of Eads Public Works Engineer, “Once the pool is closed for a summer, in order to reopen it we have to meet all the current regulatory requirements of a modern-day pool.”

It’s 1953 all over again and it’s only a matter of time before another tragedy occurs. That means it’s time for the community to step up—dive in, as it were, once again.

And that is just what the Town of Eads decided unanimously on Monday to do. They have committed the required $80,000 to Carrother’s Construction Company, LLC out of Kansas who will begin work right away developing the necessary groundwork and engineering plans for the project. This will include soil sampling and array of other prep work at the site already determined by the Town of Eads.

According to Mayor Joe Shields, “The Town has received $151,000 in American Recovery Act funds that is earmarked for economic development. We will use a portion of those funds to make the commitment toward the pool project. We think it is time to begin the project now.”

The American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) are funds that were provided by the federal government to municipalities and county governments after the devastation caused by the COVID pandemic lockdowns and the economic aftermath.

In addition, the Town of Eads has been deeded the site where the pool will be built and now owns the property. Kiowa County and the Kiowa County Historical Society owned half of the lot located at the corner of 14th Street and Goff Street where the pool will be built. Their parts were deeded to the Town, who already owned the other half, specifically for the building of a swimming pool. The deed also states that if the pool is not built at that site the property ownership reverts back to the original owners.

The next step is to find funding for the estimated $1.4 million to build the pool.

First and foremost, the Town is now working collaboratively with the Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation (KCEDF), a non-profit in the county that will not only be able to write grants geared toward the project, but their biggest contribution will be their status as an Enterprise Zone. This means that any pool donation of $200 or more receives a 25% Colorado Income Tax deduction on the amount donated. That kind of incentive means a lot to the bigger donors who can make a worthwhile donation and still get a tax benefit as well. Simply put, the donation is made to KCEDF, the donor gets the required one-page tax document to give to their tax accountant, and the KCEDF moves that donation directly to the project.

The Town and KCEDF is also working directly with a local representative from the Great Outdoors Colorado Fund. They are getting suggestions and advise on how to submit a successful GOCO grant application in November.

Finally, the Town has been working with the local high school kids in creating a fundraising video that will soon be posted on social media designed to inform the public about the pool project and how to donate.

Representatives from the Town of Eads and possibly Carrothers’ Construction Company will be at the Maine Street Bash on July 30th hoping to talk with the community members about the plans for the pool. They need your input—and they need your support. You can help in a number of ways including making a donation, offering to do in-kind work, or just putting your name on the support list.

Look for more updates in the weeks to come concerning the plans for the pool now that the commitment has been made and the Town of Eads has climbed onto the diving board and jumped in with both feet. It’s now sink or swim time. It’s up to all of us to keep this project afloat.

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