Records are being set this year at Amherst’s public pool: all-time record attendance, swimming lesson sign-ups, and concession sales.
Crowds have been using the Anna Schmauch Memorial Pool at Maude Neiding Park to beat the heat.
They’ve discovered the popular facility has gotten a facelift, with new paint, LED lighting, and refurbished restrooms.
“This job I’ve got is the greatest job I’ve ever had. I just love it,” said city parks director Don Anderson, excited by the smiling faces he gets to greet every day.
He’s spent the last several years rescuing Maude Neiding — perhaps most notably, restoring the park’s iconic playground after years of wear and tear.
At one point, Anderson said he thought the whole structure, originally built in 1994, would have to be torn down. “When I first got here, it was bad,” he said.
The past two summers have been spent replacing broken wooden planks, painting the entire structure with help and donations from Sherwin-Williams, reroofing its towers, installing new swings, and putting in new border timbers and mulch.
“We’re excited about bringing it up to date. There’s so much that’s old and has never been redone. We’re freshening everything up,” Anderson said.
Every Monday, a walk-through is conducted for insurances and safety purposes to make sure the wooden playground is in tip-top shape. Anything found broken gets fixed the same day.
More work remains: Next on the list will be replacing rusty climbing chains with colorful (and more kid-safe) nylon roping. Anderson said he also plans to restore the park’s famous rocketship slide, which needs to be sandblasted and repainted — it still has many years of life left.
“It’s a landmark. It’s been here for generations… the slide itself is in pretty good shape. It’s just old,” he said.
The newest addition to the park, which spans 10 acres between Cleveland and Park avenues, is $40,000 worth of playground equipment donated by the former Children’s Developmental Center.
Featuring wider balance beams and slides and wheelchair-accessible swings, the equipment is aimed at help children with disabilities play. It was first built in 2011 but removed from the nonprofit agency’s Erie Court property after the CDC closed.
The specialized equipment was delivered to Maude Neiding Park at the end of June, sitting in a cordoned-off area until this past week, when a professional installer arrived to assemble it.
When complete, some of the equipment will be located on the north side and some will stand on the south side of the park. Anderson said that by law kids won’t be able to play on it until mulch is laid, which is a priority for park workers.
Mayor Mark Costilow has been supportive of projects to raise the park’s profile. “We tell him what we’d like to do and if he likes it, he goes with it,” Anderson said. “He hasn’t turned us down yet.”
He said next year’s plans include replacing cracked and flaking concrete around the pool starting in April. It will be a massive job (and not all concrete will be replaced) but it will be done in time for Memorial Day weekend, which unofficially kicks off the summer season.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.