There’s something to be said for community spirit.
Just ask the Friends of the Briarwood Pool, in danger of closing earlier this year.
When the metro Jackson YMCA announced the half a century-old pool’s closure, concerned parents and friends rallied to exceed a fundraising goal set in March.
What has followed is additional money, a decision to keep the pool open and a record sign-up of kids for the pool’s Briarwood Dolphins Swim Team.
Find It In Fondren sat down with Friends of the Briarwood Pool president Wilson Carroll and swim team committee chair Jill Morgan to learn more about the pool’s plans for this summer and beyond.
So you all met your Indiegogo campaign goal?
Carroll: Exceeded it, actually. Our goal was $17,000, we raised nearly $18,000 and received a corporate donation for $5,000 to make it nearly $23,000. We understood that was a down payment on what needed to be done. There’s lots of deferred maintenance here. We have people here now looking at roof replacement on the pavilion. We also understand there may be plumbing problems. So the money we have has been earmarked.
When we were cleaning out the trophy case here, there were trophies from 1968. This place has a storied history, well over 50 years old. At various times, there’s been a lot of TLC put in this place.
Morgan: And things break!
What was the catalyst for this excited interest in the pool?
Carroll: In December, the announcement was made that the pool was to close. That’s when our group organized the effort you wrote about previously. We now have over 100 people on our mailing list that are involved with Friends of Briarwood Pool. They’ve put in – I counted it up at one point – over 400 hours of volunteer time.
Morgan: You could count the bags of pine straw they raked up! I think it was over 200!
Carroll: It was a massive, unbelievable turnout for our work day in April. People brought lawn mowers, rakes and shovels and they did painting and electrical repairs. Many repairs required expertise, so we hired plumbers and electricians. We had to replumb the bathrooms and put entirely new lights up.
The thing that struck me was that the community came together. The community building aspect was just as big as the pool building aspect. People came together and bonded the way neighborhoods should be.
There’s been the question: why not just use the Fortification Street YMCA pool?
Morgan: That pool is three or four feet deep, there’s no diving and there’s no shade like we have here. So you can’t have a swim team. We couldn’t host meets without these diving blocks. It would “kill” the Dolphins. And so some families just wouldn’t stay involved.
Carroll: And Fortification Street is not a neighborhood pool. So many kids can walk here and that makes it special.
What has the turnout been like since you all announced the pool has been saved?
Morgan: We had a huge turnout over Memorial Day weekend with over 150 each day. You see people here relaxing and hanging out, they bring dinner here; it’s just that atmosphere that’s very relaxed and folks visit while their kids play.
Carroll: Even on a rainy and overcast day like we’ve had lately – on any given day – people are here. Sometimes you just want to get the kids out of the house and this is the perfect way to do it.
And do you draw people from outside of the immediate neighborhoods?
Morgan: Since the closure of two pools in the area was announced recently – the Colonial Country Club pool and the Cypress Lake pool in Madison – so many have come to be members of this pool and our swim team. We’ve gone from 68 to nearly 100 on the team this year.
Carroll: That’s a solid 35% increase. There’s so much pent-up demand for this program and we’re, pardon the phrase, swimming against the tide to keep it open.
Your supporters are passionate and head-first in. What is it that you need for the general public to know?
Carroll: There are long-term needs associated with maintaining and operating an older pool, so you’ll see a recurring fundraising program. We’re looking for corporate sponsors. We’re going to have one event later this summer, maybe two, and we’ll have sponsorship levels. We hope that, when people see what a success this has been, they’ll want to be part of it and contribute.
This facility is an anchor for this entire neighborhood. If this had been left here empty, it would have detracted from all the surrounding values. Now that we’ve rejuvenated it, instead of it being a drag on the neighborhood, it should be a huge boost. We see this as not just focused on the Briarwood community, but the greater Jackson area as well.
Morgan: We’ve lived here 20 years and our kids have been on the swim team for seven or eight years and we found out about the pool from neighbors. It’s not very well publicized but it’s a great option for families. It’s very accessible. We have a very diverse, socioeconomic membership and it’s relaxed.
Many Fondrenites take advantage of the Briarwood Pool. It’s not too late to sign up to take part. Memberships, annual or summer, can be had through the YMCA.