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Community rallies around swimming pool as UNH floats closing it claiming safety concerns

Union Leader Correspondent

July 25. 2013 10:09PM

DURHAM — Safety concerns about the outdoor pool in Durham have led to discussions at the University of New Hampshire about solutions that may involve closing the pool for good.

But many town residents, some of whom have used the circa-1938 pool for generations, want to see it stay just as it is and have collected 500-plus signatures on a petition.

Others believe the concerns are simply an excuse to allow the university to close the pool to expand the nearby Hamel Recreation Center.

Mark Rubinstein, vice-president of student and academic services at UNH, said Thursday even if the Hamel Recreation Center expansion has no impact on the pool, the university's concerns would remain.

Rubinstein said in the last couple of years, the university has taken steps to improve the safety of the 1938-vintage pool; it was brought into ADA compliance last year. He said the pool is not out of compliance with any regulations, but concerns remain about adequate filtration and the deck surface surrounding the pool.

Although the pool is largely used by town residents, it is owned and operated by the university.

The petition to save the pool was started by long-time resident Dudley Dudley, a former executive councilor who has also served on the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees.

"The pool for me and for many, many people in Durham is much, much more than a pool. It is a community center, it's a place where generations of parents have come to watch their children swimming and to talk to other parents. It's a place where faculty meet other faculty and faculty meet townspeople and townspeople meet other townspeople and it's an institution," she said.

Dudley said she "bleeds blue and white" and is very loyal to the university, but said for UNH to make a decision to close the pool seems "absolutely wrong-headed."

"I know the university is saying that it isn't the fact that it wants to move the Hamel Recreation facility over the pool, it's the quality of the safety of the pool, but they have cried wolf too many times and I don't believe that," Dudley said.

She said with the petition, she is hoping the university simply listens to townspeople.

Rubinstein said he hopes to have small group discussions in the coming months before a larger public meeting is held in the fall.

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