An appeal by the community for the failings of local journalism.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
It seems like every month lately, Lousie Goldstein begins pining for the Victoria Pool to open early. Just as the spring flowers begin to poke through the thawing earth, it seems like the co-founder of the Save the Victoria Pool Society hits the media circuit with pleas –even demands –for the State Park administration to add a few more weeks to either end of the pool season.And it’s high time the bastards begin listening.The Victoria Pool, much like the park it inhabits, is a treasure to both Saratoga Springs and New York as a whole. Seldom is there a person who visits the pool’s sun drenched deck nestled in a piney grove and leaves without feeling replenished in some way shape or form. It is a unique place where plutocrats freely mix with plebeians and the only discerning factor between the two is who managed to claim rights to the sparsely numbered lounge chairs.The Victoria Pool was built in 1935 as an excercise component part of the state-owned hydrotherapy resort, which also included the mineral bathes, the springs and the Gideon Putnam Hotel. Visitors were expected to drink spa’s medicinal spring waters, bathe in the mineral water and give their muscles a gentle workout at Victoria.When the spa was incorporated into the state park system in 1962, the pool started a slow descent into what many considered abject decay. By the turn of the century, what was once known as the nation’s first heated public pool became renowned for its frosty waters. Everything from the fountains to the surrounding brick work showed marked deterioration; the innerworkings also showed age, rupturing once in August 2o03 to shut down both the park's pools for a spell.Earlier that year, Goldstein and Andrew Jennings, two of the pool’s frequent visitors, formed the Victoria Pool society to lobby for marked state improvements to the structure. After six months of heavy lobbying, the parks administration announced an 18-month $1.5 million renovation project to restore “the Vic” back to its former grandeur, including the once-heated water.Now that the renovations are done, Goldstein and her organization are petitioning for a few extra days in the season to enjoy them, as well they should. But state park officials can’t seem to open the pool until late June at the earliest, and then refuses to keep it open past Labor Day. They claim this is to keep up on the necessary regiment of maintenance needed to ensure the pool’s water quality and the grounds are properly tended.While there may be a hint of truth to this, the bottom line is more likely economics. In years of running the pool, the parks administration has realized it makes no money in May, early June or September. So rather than subsidize a loss-leader among other areas of the park that do make money, the economic thing is to shut it down, regardless of the public will.Problem is the public owns Victoria; it always has, it always will. It was built by the public under Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration and has been funded by the public for more than seven decades. So when the public is asking –rather demanding –more time to enjoy its property, the state is obligated make a concession at the very least.In this case, how much would it hurt to open the gates a week earlier than normal and keep them open a week later? Not much. Could it be done? Certainly. Will it happen? Well, that’s up to the public. As Goldstein and her organization have proven, people talk and politicians generally ignore them; but when groups shout, their feet get moving pretty quickly.
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