Andes pool is great place to beat the heat

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By John Bernhardt
With temperatures this week near 90 degrees, heat weary folks from Delaware County have one safe haven where they know they can find relief – the Andes community swimming pool. As it has for nearly 45 years, the Andes pool welcomes folks from anywhere and everywhere to enjoy some outdoor relaxation and/or ‘safety first’ water fun.

“Let’s put it this way, we never say no,” explained Jo Ann Perry, when explaining the philosophy behind the operation of the pool. Perry should know. Her association with the pool stretches nearly four decades. Perry retired as the director of the Andes summer operation in 2011.

Perry’s sentiments were seconded by Joe Grieco, a key supporter of the pool and its mission over the years. “No child has ever been turned away,” noted Grieco. “No child has ever paid a penny for lessons, and the Andes pool is open to everyone.”

Looking ahead
It was visionary thinking in the late 1960s when the Andes town fathers decided to invest in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. This forward thinking has paid dividends over and over to the greater Andes community ever since.

Like any community asset, realizing the Andes pool was a collaborative endeavor. In 1967 Andes Central School gave one acre of land to the town as part of the effort. A year later 2.4 additional acres were acquired from Pete and Anna Ali. Construction took place in 1969.

Over the years and along the way, the Andes community pool has benefited from the work of several critical friends. “A community swimming pool wouldn’t be possible without the vision, foresight and generosity of many people, people like Joe Grieco, Jo Ann Perry, Marlene Sluiter, Jennifer Finkle, Kathy and George Redden, Carolyn Ruff, and Pat and Walter Gladstone,” notes Andes Supervisor Marty Donnelly who, with the town board, is entrusted with the responsibility to keep the vision alive.

The Gladstone family was with the program since its inception and when special projects were required to extend the life of the pool over the years, have never wavered in offering support. In fact, at a rededication ceremony after the latest project installed new gutters and a vinyl liner, the pool was named the Pat M. and Walter B. Gladstone Swimming Pool.

Part of the magic of the pool is the ‘Andes Touch,’ everyone pitches in and helps out. In fact, there is no maintenance team at the pool says Co-Director Rachel Andrews who shares task responsibilities with her Co-Director Jackie Dunn and her five person lifeguard staff. Every facet of the operation of the pool; vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning, dispensing the chemicals to keep the water clean, and opening and closing is handled by the directors and lifeguards.

“It’s a real pleasure to work at the Andes pool,” says Andrews. Unlike many of her college friends who complain about their summer work, Andrews loves going to work every day. Teaching swimming lessons, working with the other lifeguards, serving the public and taking on new challenges all appeal to the new co-director.

Over the decades Perry was a one-person force in the Andes pool operation. “Jo Ann is a wealth of knowledge, not just about swimming, but about every facet of the pool, the organization, how to function, maintain and operate the pool,” said lifeguard Carolyn Ruff, who has worked summers at the pool for many years.

Ruff reports that for years Perry, a water safety instructor, handled all the lifeguard, upgrade and refresher training as well as CPR and AED training.

Perry sent a lot of local kids into the greater world with valued, serviceable skills they could use to serve their new communities and earn income. Andrews was one such Perry protégée utilizing her lifeguarding skills as a student at SUNY Delhi before attending SUNY Cortland as a physical education major, then becoming a co-director this summer.

Swimming lessons are a huge component of the pool. Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to noon, the pool is only open for patrons seeking to learn to swim. According to Perry on average some 150 people, young and sometimes old, take swimming lessons each year.
At the onset many of the local communities sponsored summer recreation programs for youngsters.
A local Andes recreation effort at one time featured daily instruction in baseball, arts and crafts, playground games and, of course, swimming lessons.

For several years Margaretville and Roxbury bused students to Andes for swimming lessons. This year the South Kortright summer program transports children three days a week for free swim. Forty-four youngsters are signed up with just under 40 attending each session. “It’s great watching kids learn to swim, seeing their abilities change from year to year, notes Ruff. “It’s just so important”.

The Andes Community pool serves another valuable role as a community bridge to second homeowners and vacationers. On their busiest days, the pool staff serves up to 200 patrons, many visitors to the area. “You meet a ton of great people,” said Perry. It’s fun when they return each year catching up with what’s happened in their lives and watching their kids grow up.”

On weekdays, after swimming lessons end at noon, the pool is available for free swim until 7 p.m. One hour of that time, currently from 5 to 6 p.m., is dedicated to adult swim with no patrons under 18 years old inside the gates. Beginning on July 29, the adult hour will be moved to the last hour each day.

The pool is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1 to 7 p.m. on Sundays. “It’s a privilege that our town and community makes this pool available to so many people,” concluded Andrews.