ROCHELLE — In June, kids won’t just be returning to Spring Lake Pool after it was closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’ll be returning to a facility that has recently undergone $500,000 worth of renovations including the addition of a splash pad, patched and repainted pools, new shade umbrellas, an upgraded locker room with LED lighting, 16 new lower entrance parking stalls, new fencing and revamped landscaping.
"We can't wait to see the kids' faces,” Flagg-Rochelle Park District Executive Director Jackee Ohlinger said. “They're going to be ecstatic. One, they haven't been here in so long and they're just anxious to be part of normalcy with their friends. Now they have some new things to catch their eye and experience."
The park district received a $310,000 grant in matching funds from the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development program. When completely finished, the total project will be $620,000.
The pool is slated for its opening day on Saturday, June 5 at 12:30 p.m., if weather allows for the newly-painted pool to dry and be filled and operational by then, Ohlinger said.
The park district decided to apply for the OSLAD grant to couple all of its Spring Lake maintenance projects that were coming up. Getting those funds allowed the splash pad to be put in as well.
The concession area was made smaller to make way for the splash pad. Use of the splash pad will be included in patrons’ entrance admission fee while the pool is open. When the pool is closed, the community can use the splash pad at no expense.
“We'll open up the gates,” Ohlinger said. “There's a lot of free hours of it. Really we're talking about until 12:30 every day it's available to them. And then one of our biggest struggles is that our lifeguards are mostly students. They go back to school early August. Trying to keep the pool open in August is a challenge. Even if we have to close then, they'll still have the splash pad for many more hot days ahead of them to be utilized at any time.”
When the park district asked the community what it wanted from Spring Lake improvements, shade and additional, closer parking were the top responses.
Six new large shade structures have fulfilled that need. The 16 new parking stalls near the splash pad will make getting to and from the pool easier for parents and grandparents with strollers or small children.
“They could only park at the marina or along those side streets and walk down those steps, which is a challenge,” Ohlinger said. “Having some priority parking for those that need it at the entrance level was important.”
A couple of years ago, the decking at Spring Lake was redone. A new heating and filtration system was put in for the pool in recent years as well. Much of the new landscaping will require little-to-no maintenance.
“We really spent a lot of time and effort improving this place because of its real value to the community,” Ohlinger said. “It's the only outdoor pool. Efficiency is a big thing. A lot of the maintenance projects we did are going to be cost-effective for the district in the long run.”
Interim Aquatic Director Marianne Swanson worked at Spring Lake during its first year in 1981. Safety and handicap accessibility are her favorite facets of the recent renovations. The deck no longer has levels and those in wheelchairs are able to move around the facility.
Swanson is excited to see how the community takes to the new splash pad.
“The splash pad is state-of-the-art, and also supervised during open hours which I think is nice,” Swanson said.
Swanson said until the district receives total guidance, Spring Lake staff will be following whatever COVID-19 recommendations are. She hopes it will be opened completely with no restrictions by mid-June.
Swanson called last year’s closure an ‘anticlimactic’ summer, but believes the community is in for a great 2021 season due to reopening and renovations.
"I'm very thankful to this park board and previous board members,” Swanson said. “They stayed with Spring Lake. There was talk for a while of, 'Oh, we'll just shut it down. It's getting old. Instead of pumping the money back into the facility and bringing it back to where it was when we opened.' They made a commitment to our community and our kids. I can't say enough good things about their support."
Despite the recent completion of district-changing projects like The REC Center and Spring Lake’s renovations, Ohlinger is tired, but not tired of projects.
“It's been a lot of work,” Ohlinger said. “But, there's still a lot of wonderful things. It's exciting because we have community members that still suggest ideas that are wonderful. It doesn't really matter how tired I am. If there's something more we need to do to add value to Rochelle, I think the board and our staff are ready to do it."