An historic, heritage-listed Art Deco outdoor pool in Maryborough will most likely need to be completely rebuilt as it comes to the end of it working life, councillors say.
The Municipal Olympic Pool in Maryborough was opened in 1940, after Melbourne's mayor Sir Frank Beaurepaire's long-running campaign to raise the level of swimming ability in the state.
Designed by local architect EJ Peck and constructed by the city's engineers, it was an instant and popular success with the local populace.
While the pool's change rooms, entrance rotunda and facilities can be preserved and restored, the two pools - children's and main - are developing cracks and leaking water. Constructed on marshy land slightly below the town's ornamental lake, and despite over 80 years of constant use, well past the lifespan of most bathing complexes, the pools are now showing signs of structural collapse.
The pool was dug manually by unemployed labour under the most atrocious conditions, with the constant draining of groundwater being a problem throughout construction.- Cr Geoff Lovett, CGSC
CGSC mayor Chris Meddows-Taylor says chlorinated water is seeping into Maryborough's Lake Victoria alongside the pool complex, and it's possible lake water, which is recycled, is coming back into the pool system.
"Basically, it's in a dire state," Cr Meddows-Taylor says.
"Consultants looked at it last year, and this year... and they're saying it's deteriorated markedly over the last 12 months. On every safety ground we cannot keep it open; it would be quite irresponsible. The only thing to do is to close it and redo it completely, redo the shell."
Fellow councillor Geoff Lovett put a motion to the CGSC council meeting on Tuesday night canvassing options for the reconstruction of the historic pool, in light of its heritage listing and centrality to the sporting life of Maryborough.
Cr Lovett said it is remarkable the Maryborough pool lasted as long as it has.
"The new pool was built in 1939 on a marshy area adjacent to Lake Victoria, known locally as Poole's Dam, after former councillor Sam Poole, a former mayor who advocated passionately for a new pool for Maryborough," Cr Lovett said.
"Ironically this was to replace the existing baths where our children's playground is. The new 50-metre pool was dug manually by unemployed labour under the most atrocious conditions, with the constant draining of groundwater being a problem throughout construction. Proper restoration of this iconic pool is not only important to Maryborough and the shire, but to that state of Victoria."
Cr Meddows-Taylor says council and Heritage Victoria are committed to restoring the pool and surrounds, but a $2m grant to begin re-tiling the baths can't be undertaken in the pool's current state.
"We couldn't get someone to do those Art Deco tiles, but now there's no point in doing that while the fundamental shell is insecure. So we need to do the full job as a complex."
Local councils spend millions of dollars each year on the upkeep of local pools, which on average have a life span of between 30 and 50 years, with some lasting to 70. Municipal pools rarely make money; they are renowned as a drain on capital for councils, and are often in the sights for closure, always to community outrage.
The Goldfields shire has several municipal pools, including an indoor pool in Maryborough and local outdoor pools in Dunolly and Talbot. Those pools will be available free of charge this summer as the Maryborough pool closes and the shire seeks funding for its repair.
The importance of local pools in teaching children, and adults, how to swim and be water-safe, can never be underestimated, as indicated by a 1943 newspaper report.
In that year Horsham councillors, condemning the poor levels of swimming ability in their town - only 4 per cent of children in Horsham could swim - spoke highly of Maryborough's pool, noting in Maryborough 95 per cent of children swam because of the availability of the baths.
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