Community makes a big splash with outdoor pool

It opened five decades ago, but this year the community-run outdoor swimming pool in Carrignavar is experiencing its busiest summer yet, writes EMMA CONNOLLY
Community makes a big splash with outdoor pool

JUMPING FOR JOY: Carol Loftus and May Murray having fun at the community run outdoor swimming pool at Carrignavar (Carrig na BhFear). The pool is experiencing its busiest summer to-date. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

SUMMER 2018 will go down in the history of the 54 year old Carraig na bhFear public swimming pool as their busiest year ever, and when they had to turn people away at the gate.

And it will be stand out as a time when the whole village jumped in at the deep end and felt united in what they could achieve by working together as a small community with a population of just 3,000.

The pool was originally built by a group of locals in 1964 including the late Colonel James McMahon who brought engineering expertise from Collins Barracks and it was financed mainly by local fundraising.

After it had been closed for a few years, it was taken over by the Community Council in 1984 and in 1990 they upgraded it to a heated pool. Today, still owned by the Community Council, it has the distinction of being one of only three outdoor public heated pools in the country.

Aoife O'Connor, lifeguard on duty at the community run outdoor swimming pool at Carrignavar (Carrig na BhFear).Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Aoife O'Connor, lifeguard on duty at the community run outdoor swimming pool at Carrignavar (Carrig na BhFear).Picture: Eddie O'Hare

It opens to the public every summer for eight weeks after schools close, and as a result of a social media campaign driven by Kieran McGinley, this year has seen it attract people and clubs from all over Cork — helped in no small way by the weather.

Swimmers of all ages are travelling to the pool from Ballincollig, Blackrock, Blackpool, Blarney Watergrasshill, Grenagh, Glenville, Whitechurch and beyond to use the 24 metre, 80,000L pool which takes its water from the Clashboy river.

The facility boasts dressing rooms, showers and a new shaded gazebo picnic area; as well as having a playground, tennis and basketball courts and a green adjacent to it making it a perfect destination for a family day out.

There’s discounted evening slots for sports clubs, with several athletics, running and cycling clubs training in the area and enjoying a cool dip afterwards.

Prices are attractive with lots of packages on offer including a family season ticket for €110; child weekly ticket for €15; or child session entry for €5.

Tom Howard, chair of the local community council for the past 12 years, explained that it was the vision of a few people with foresight who brought it about originally — but it was a massive voluntary effort that’s kept it going.

Two local ladies ran it on a volunteer basis for over two decades — Dympna Geaney for 21 years and Judy Murphy for 25. Dympna retired this year and said the pool had ‘become part of our lives.’

The community run outdoor swimming pool at Carrignavar (Carrig na BhFear) packed with swimmers enjoying the summer sunshine.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The community run outdoor swimming pool at Carrignavar (Carrig na BhFear) packed with swimmers enjoying the summer sunshine.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Our lives revolved around it. I have four girls and when I started they were aged nine months, four, six and 10.

“There was a big community of mothers there and we would all help each other.

“It was a great way for the community to bond and a place to meet and make friends as well as being a source of employment.

“Generations learned to swim there,’ said Dympna who is also a founding member of the local youth club and works in Glenville pre-school.

Ahead of this summer season, a new pool committee was set up comprising Lorraine Murray, Lisa and Jason O’Shea, Veronica Fitzpatrick, Alison O’Keeffe, Rachel Varian, Tom and Michael O’Dwyer and the already mentioned Tom Howard who helped by a legion of volunteers.

Lorraine said the facility, which employs seven lifeguards, had really put their village on the map in recent weeks and brought the place ‘alive.’

“We have around 70 people a day swimming here and are turning people away. We can take 90 in total but we limit it to 70 and have three life guards on duty at all times with four volunteers on the perimeter,” she said.

She described the operation as a ‘real community effort.’

“Our local shop keeper Karen Drummond is selling drinks, ice creams and other snacks for €1 and Carraig na bhFear Pharmacy are also selling sun creams, goggles, hats, arm bands – everyone is doing their bit and getting involved.

Alison O'Keeffe , treasurer at the community run outdoor swimming pool.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Alison O'Keeffe , treasurer at the community run outdoor swimming pool.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Everyone has a different skillset and are all bringing something including Tom Howard who is a fantastic man and gives 120% and Cory and Gill O’Shea who do amazing work in maintaining the boiler and checking the PH of the water when we close at night,’ said the SNA.

Before they opened for this season, which saw them introduce birthday parties, they organised a series of volunteer clean up sessions which saw major painting works and new benches and a gazebo erected.

Next up is a revamping of the dressing rooms and new fencing with an overall plan to keep upgrading the facility.

And for the village itself, Tom, originally from Clare but in the area for 38 years, 32 of which he’s been involved in the community council, explains how there’s lots in the pipeline. That includes developing a 15 point plan with the county council having being allocated €62.5k for village renewal.

That will include things like new footpaths and signage. The community council also hope to apply for planning for a new hall within the next two years.

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