State Pulls the Plug on Well-Known Local Pool

By Lindsey Connell - bio | e-mail | Twitter

PINE MOUNTAIN, GA (WTVM) -  Families who visit the historic Liberty Bell Pool at FDR State Park this summer will be greeted by a lock on the fence and a sign that says the pool is closed.

That's because it's drains don't meet new federal safety regulations and the state says it can't afford to fix them-leaving thousands of people who visit the spring-fed pool high and dry at the park's busiest time of year.

Steve Earles, the pool's operator, says it's the first time the pool will be closed since it was built in the 1930s.

"People are going to come with their children, towels and bathing suits ready and jumping out of the car all excited to come back to the pool they've been coming to for years and their parents have been coming to and their grandparents have been coming to and they're going to come up to an empty pool," he said.

A new federal mandate requires pool drains to be updated with a new safety requirement that's designed to keep kids from being sucked against the drains and trapped under water.

State officials say that upgrade comes with a big price tag.

"Roughly, to get that pool in compliance with the federal law, it would take about $15,000 but that's one pool out of 11 so you multiply that out and that's a significant amount of money in a very tight economic situation," explained Sally Winchester, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Fans of the pool hope the state won't leave it's plug pulled for long.

"It would just be a shame to not keep it going," added Earles.

A question and answer session with Georgia DNR officials will be held on Friday May 15th at 7PM to discuss ways to preserve the pool.

The event will be held at the Pine Mountain Art Center in downtown Pine Mountain. It is open to the public.

Meanwhile, the city of Columbus is adding the safety feature to all of its public pools.