Community spirit saves Carter Pool

Shannon CareyFeature, Northeast Knox

For 50 years, Carter Community Pool has opened every summer, giving folks of all ages a safe, fun place to beat the heat. Adults remembered spending fun-filled childhood days there and brought their own kids and grandkids to enjoy the pool.

That is, until a post appeared on the pool’s Facebook page this spring announcing that, without help, the pool would not open for the 2018 season. Dwindling memberships and vanishing volunteers had taken their toll. For a few years, two people, Richard and Missy Gibson, had been keeping the pool open with their own money.

That spelled a disappointing summer for many people. Several Knoxville-area community pools have already closed. Boys and Girls Clubs bring summer kids to Carter Community Pool, along with other summer camps and programs.

Carter Community Pool manager Valerie Wilson and volunteer Suzanne French

But, according to pool manager Valerie Wilson and volunteer Suzanne French, a flood of volunteers and community support has saved the pool this year, getting it open and operational for Memorial Day weekend and for the rest of the summer.

“It’s a community pool, and we as a community are keeping it going,” said French.

The pool was built in 1968 on Pascal Carter Memorial Park in the Carter community. The park and pool are meant to be self-sustaining with volunteer boards of directors, separate boards for the park and the pool, accepting no Knox County funds. Current board members and volunteers can point to the plaque of pool founders’ names and find parents, grandparents and uncles.

It was that connection that spurred the community into action. On May 7, more than 40 people attended a meeting to create a plan to save the pool. They started a pool membership drive. Last year, the pool had just 30 memberships. Between May 7 and Memorial Day, almost 100 families signed up.

Sweat equity poured in, too. Volunteers stayed on site until the wee hours several nights to get the pool ready for Memorial Day. Cleaning, patching leaks, pressure washing, replacing pumps and fixtures, all were accomplished with volunteer labor. A local Boy Scout Troop pitched in to paint the pool house and concession stand.

Wilson thanked volunteer Bob Ritter for going above and beyond to get the pool open.

Crystal clear water at Carter Community Pool

“The pool probably wouldn’t have opened without him,” she said.

The membership drive boosted available funds, as did selling sponsorship banners to local businesses. The banners are set to arrive sometime this week, said Wilson. Those funds went to “seed money” for chemicals, filters and other necessities.

“I think people are unaware of how expensive it is just to get started,” she said.

“Our community is so giving,” said French. “All you have to do is ask.”

More fundraisers are on the way, like barbecue dinners and a July 4th 50th anniversary celebration. Watch Facebook for details. And, more projects need to get done. A plan is underway to fix the baby pool, for example, and the pool house needs a new roof. Folks can help by buying memberships ($100 for a family of one, up to $300 for a family of six or more), by visiting the pool without a membership ($5 per person), or by donating time or money.

For Wilson, French and the other volunteers, there was no better reward than seeing the line at the gate on opening day.

“I cried,” said French. “Just coming out here and seeing the people lining up at the gate to get in, we had 25 people in the pool in 10 minutes.”

She invited everyone to come visit the Carter Community Pool, no matter where they live.

“We are the Carter pool, but we’ll take people from wherever,” French said. “Come join us and be part of our community.”

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