By Kaylee Lindenmuth | email@example.com
Editor's Note: The following is the first in a multi-part series recounting the history of Shenandoah's efforts to create a community swimming pool from the 1950s through the 1990s, including the former Sandy Beach Recreation Area. Part One details the failed efforts to install a swimming pool and adult recreational complex at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
SHENANDOAH - Not far off Route 924, down a paved road across from the Tastee Freeze and behind a Municipal Authority - Borough of Shenandoah water tank lies a grassy clearing with a creek running through it.
It's not quite apparent today, but this site was the closest Shenandoah got to having a community swimming pool. This site was the Sandy Beach Recreation Area, a former municipal water source-turned swimming area in the 1960s after about a decade trying to build a pool in Shenandoah borough.
The recreation area operated for a little over two decades, opening in the late 60s and closing in the mid 90s. Older area residents still recall the operation, though many recent high school graduates and younger folks don't know what sat in a ravine atop Locust Mountain. Today, little remains of the site beyond a lone outbuilding and infrastructure remnants.
Entering the 1960s, options for swimming in the greater Shenandoah Area were slim. The Shenandoah Heights Pool closed in the late 50s for renovations and, in 1958, its bathhouse and concession stand burned to the ground. That pool was about 500 feet east of the former Locust Mountain Hospital, where two residences now stand. According to newspaper archives, the pool property was a dilapidated mess up until at least 1967.
The July 8, 1959 edition of the Shenandoah Evening Herald outlined the beginnings of an attempt to bring a pool to Shenandoah, by the Shenandoah Rotary Club.
"If efforts begun by Shenandoah Rotary Club last evening prove successful, residents of the community will at long last enjoy the public swimming and picnicking facilities they have dreamed of for so many years," the Herald outlines.
The Rotary had two ideas in mind at the time, both involved existing nearby facilities: said Shenandoah Heights pool, and the "Greenie" dam about a mile and a half northeast of Shenandoah proper. A Rotarian, Adam Balkiewicz Jr., noted the Greenie was a popular location for young people in Shenandoah and nearby communities, and it, at the time, was owned by the borough.
A year later, in 1960, plans were outlined for a "14-acre recreation site" in the Glover's Hill section. The Shenandoah School District had purchased 14 acres of land from the West Shenandoah Land Company, which, at the time, was the site of the former Memorial Stadium.
"The Shenandoah Recreation Area truly will be a garden spot of the county," Shenandoah Superintendent John J. Downey told the Pottsville Republican on July 16, 1960 of the planned facility, which would include "a football field, baseball field, track, practice football field, and possibly a recreation area for adults."
By year's end, a scale model was developed and published in local newspapers. and the site had been completely cleared. The site, according to the Dec. 14, 1960 edition of the Republican would be developed by two entities -- the stadium itself would be constructed by the school district and the recreational area, planned to consist of a swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, and a picnic area, would be developed by the Shenandoah Recreation Commission.
The project created the Veterans Memorial Stadium we know today, re-orienting the football field to face north-south to keep the sun out of players' eyes, and installing new lights, stands, a track, and a baseball diamond. The swimming pool and other park amenities were supposed to be behind the away grandstands at the stadium.
The Jan. 20, 1961 edition of the Herald touted the project as "the most exciting recreational project ever attempted in this community."
"Probably the most long-awaited facility at the center will be a swimming pool, something which the public here has been without for some years," the Herald wrote.
The football field, part of the school district-backed phase of the project, was completed and dedicated in the fall of 1962, and a few months prior, the Shenandoah Recreation Commission began fundraising for their half of the project. Then-Borough Police Chief Frank Alinsky, a member of the commission, told the Herald that $20,000 ($167,929 today) would be needed to begin construction of the facility. In October, 1962, the commission said the total cost of the facility would be "in the neighborhood of $80,000 ($608,477 today)," including the bath houses and other facilities.
Over the next few years, a host of community groups would voice support and provide donations to the project. A March 1, 1963 Herald article said the commission had $5,000 of the $20,000 needed to begin construction. In May of that year, the Shenandoah Woman's Club provided $125 towards the project. That same month, the Defender Fire Co. provided a $25 donation, and the commission said they had $4,200 in contributions in the bank and another $1,500 pledged.
In January of 1964, the commission provided an update to the Woman's Club on the project, noting that final plans had been submitted to the government for approval to pursue grants, and that, in the 18 months prior, $6,000 had been raised.
The project had been planned with the assumption state or federal grants would be received for the project, but, by the middle of the decade, the only government money received had been for project planning.
"Although Shenandoah was on the approved list for government funds, the money was gone when the local community reached the top of the list," the Herald wrote in April of 1966. "Funds were not allotted for such programs in subsequent fiscal years.
Once it had been realized government funds would not be received to build the pool at the Glover's Hill site, the commission disbanded but work continued to develop a pool for the borough.
The "Jigger Dam," one of the Kehley Run reservoirs, was seen as a potential site, and Metro Litwak, then president of the Shenandoah School Board, recommended a study regarding the use of the site as a recreational facility. Shortly thereafter, the Shenandoah Recreation Authority was formed to lead the project.
Part Two will outline the development of the "Jigger Dam" site, which would become Sandy Beach.
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