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Vermilion pool last of a kind

Andy Ouriel • Jun 16, 2013 at 3:45 PM

Nowadays, she can flip off the diving board, plunging deep into the water and venturing to a low point of about 10 feet.

Cameron, 7, can also hold her breath underwater for about two minutes.

So how did she develop all these swimming skills? By taking lessons at the Vermilion Community Pool.

Cameron and about 30 other children swam on a recent weekday, learning basic dives, strokes and techniques.

"Learning how to swim when you live on Lake Erie is like learning how to take your first steps or eating by yourself," Cameron's mother Mary Sexton said. "It's vital."

What's also important: The Vermilion Community Pool has persevered, to where it is now the only public swimming center in Erie County.

Vermilion Community Pool

What: Erie County's only public access pool.

Where: By Vermilion High School, 4846 Pineview Drive.

When: Public swimming is available noon to 7:45 p.m. daily through Labor Day.

Cost: Gate fee is $5 for children younger than 17, $6 for adults and free to children younger than 3. Individual all-access pool passes are $150 for city residents and $175 for nonresidents. Family all-access pool passes are $250 for residents and $275 for nonresidents.

Amenities: 110-by-25-foot pool with shallow and deep ends, plus diving board. Swim lessons available.

Call: 440-967-9071  

Other public pools — such as Sandusky's wave-action center, Surf's Up, and an outdoor venue at Osborn MetroPark — have closed during the past two decades.

The Vermilion Community Pool has been a mainstay since 1963, dating back to the Vallyview Pool. Area subdivision homeowners invested and covered costs for maintenance before relinquishing control to city officials about 20 years ago.

"Pools notoriously lose money," said Bob Cunicella, Vermilion Community Pool's operation manager. While overseen by Vermilion officials and controlled by taxpayers, the pool relies heavily upon goodwill to stay afloat.

"Every year, we have to solicit donations," Cunicella said. "We've been very fortunate that the community has given money to make sure the pool stays open."

The Vermilion Community Pool needs roughly $21,000 a year for chemicals, utilities and payroll.

After that, hardly any money is left for desperately needed upgrades such as paving the jagged concrete bordering the pool.

Cash-strapped times in years past nearly forced organizers to close the the pool for an entire summer. Thanks to donations, that never happened. In 2010, for instance, Cunicella donated his entire summer salary so the pool could stay open.

"For kids to sit at home and play video games is, to me, a waste of the summer," Cunicella said. "We have been very fortunate that the community has given the money to make sure the pool is open so the kids have something to do in the summer."

Keeping the pool open has kept swimmers and others happy.

"I know a few people from Lorain who drive out here for lessons," pool lifeguard Dean Coghlan said. "It's accessible, low-cost and just a really happy place to be."

The family-friendly atmosphere enticed Irma Ruiz to enroll her two children — Sophia, 9, and Luis, 6 — in swimming lessons this summer. So far, Luis can dip his head underwater and Sophia can dive, feats neither could accomplish a year ago.

"The kids enjoy swimming lessons," Irma said.

Irma and Mary also agreed the pool is a place where kids can swim without paying exuberant prices, as they would at area water parks, country clubs or private swimming areas.

"Having a community pool is just as important as having a safe school in your community," Mary said. "The city needs this pool. It's a necessity. Not a luxury."

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