Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Country club chic vs family friendly"

2 Spa Park pools: Country club chic vs. family friendly
Saturday, July 17, 2010

By Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Photographer: Bruce Squiers

Gracie Dube, eight, of Glenville, hits a pool of water after a trip down the water slide at Peerless Pool in Saratoga Spa Park.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Victoria and Peerless pools are less than a mile apart at Saratoga Spa State Park, but to hear fans of each pool describe them, they may as well be in separate worlds.

Cooling off, catching rays and relaxing are the goals at both pools, but the atmospheres are different.

Peerless has its big grass yard and a few shade trees, its zero-depth entry, kiddie pool and water slides that attract youngsters and their parents. It’s noisier, faster and the lifeguards blow their whistles more.

Victoria’s charm is in the architecture, the arched promenades that surround the pool, as well as the chaise lounges and attached bar and restaurant. The pace is slower, and although children are welcomed, they’re clearly in the minority.

One Peerless fan described the difference as “country club” versus “public” pools.

Terry Avery, of Corinth, prefers the down-to-earth Peerless Pool, where she takes her 9-year-old granddaughter, Bernice Avery, about once a week.

Bernice loves the water slides at Peerless. “It’s just fun because you can go on it fast, and you can race people,” she said. She especially enjoys racing her cousins to the bottom, and paddles with her hands to go faster.

Patty Burnham was just an energetic preteen herself when her parents started dropping her and her younger brother off at the Victoria Pool while they golfed at McGregor Links in Wilton.

Now 67, Burnham still goes frequently, and said not much has changed in more than 50 years, other than the removal of diving boards.

“It’s just as beautiful now as it was back then,” the Corinth woman said.

“I could swim the length of the pool underwater,” she recalled. “We were just two little fishes.”

The Victoria Pool is still something of a secret, said Burnham’s daughter, Laurie Macara of Saratoga Springs. “I’ve talked to people that live here, that have moved here [who] don’t even know it exists,” said Macara, 48. She urges them to visit the pool she considers one of the most beautiful places in the city.

“It’s like being in Europe, I think. It’s like being on vacation.”

Many Victoria regulars like the crowd that shows up there.

Becky Miller of Saratoga Springs said she meets all different types of people at the Victoria Pool. The outgoing 24-year-old Saratoga native met visitors from New Jersey and New Hampshire there on a recent visit, and saw friends and acquaintances.

“It’s restaurant people, it’s locals, it’s tourists,” she said. “It’s representative of Saratoga, because that’s what Saratoga is.”

Miller works at The Mexican Connection in the evenings, but she and two coworkers chill out at the pool when they can on weekdays.

The trio stood in the shallow end and perused a gossip magazine that Jessica Bellon, 20, held above the water.

Off-duty lifeguards also frequent the pools.

Three Grafton Lake lifeguards on their day off soaked up sun at the Victoria Pool while visiting friends who worked there.

“On our days off, we’d rather be at the pool than at the beach,” said Jen Villanova, 22, of Clifton Park, who was evening out her lifeguard tan lines.

“It’s a different crowd here,” she said, adding she prefers the Victoria Pool to Peerless, where she used to work. “It’s just a pretty place.”

Victoria devotees know they have to get to the pool early to get a good spot, and score the coveted chaise lounges.

Sisters Bonnie Prescott and Kathy Blair said a 9:30 a.m. arrival is best, half an hour before the pool opens.

Visiting the pool just about every weekend is their treat after working all week.

“I work all week long; I deserve one day,” said Prescott, 60, of Clifton Park. “We love it. It’s convenient.”

Blair, 55, of East Greenbush definitely likes the Victoria Pool better. “That’s too big over there,” she said of the Peerless Pool.

Prescott used to frequent Peerless.

“When my kids were younger, we used to go to the Peerless Pool.”

save the pool

The Victoria Pool even has its own grassroots group, Save the Victoria Pool, formed several years ago to urge the state park to fix problems at the pool. More recently it has lobbied to open the pool before the traditional late June start date, and voiced concern for the pool’s fate during this year’s state budget crisis.

But Peerless has its fans too, though they may not be as public or as vocal.

A Rotterdam couple was sold on the pool during a visit on a recent Wednesday, because it offered an inexpensive day out as they had a picnic lunch under a shade tree.

Jeff and Tammy Hodder hadn’t been to Peerless many times before. But they hope to come more often this summer because Jeff, 54, discovered he gets relief from a painful back injury in the water.

“I get in the water here, and I’m pain free,” Hodder said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

They have visited the Central Park pool in Schenectady, but find it even more hectic than Peerless, which during the week is packed with children attending summer camps.

“We love the park,” Tammy Hodder said. “This is one of the nicest parks around.”

A few people lay in the very shallow end of the zero-depth entry at Peerless, soaking in some water and basking in the sun. Unlike at Victoria Pool, few people sat on the concrete pool deck at Peerless. Everyone had their chairs and blankets spread out on the grass, some under shade trees.

Tara Doria likes the wide-open space at Peerless, where she takes her 4-year-old son and an 18-month-old boy she watches. “There’s a lot more grass space,” the Ballston Spa woman said.

The Peerless Pool complex consists of an Olympic-sized main pool with zero-depth entry, a separate slide pool with a 19-foot double slide and a children’s wading pool with mushroom fountain. The “deep end” is 31⁄2 feet.

The capacity for the Victoria Pool is 344 swimmers, while Peerless Pool can hold more than twice that.

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