The community campaign to raise $400,000—and then an additional $40,000—to put a dome over the pool at Claudius Crozet Park during the cold weather months has reached its goal, and construction of the dome will begin later this month, pending the release of $200,000 in Albemarle County money set aside for Crozet park projects by the supervisors.
Park board members spent December in a determined push to raise $20,000 after an anonymous donor offered a $10,000 match if park leaders could rise an equal amount. They announced victory on New Year’s Eve.
Park officials were forced to spent $55,000 to retile the pool last spring when it was discovered that tiles were falling off, park board member Heidi Sonen said. The money came from the dome project fund and had to be replaced. Because the time frame for getting the dome in place for next winter meant construction had to begin soon, a heroic effort was made to reach the finish line.
“We needed to fix the tiles, or the pool wouldn’t be ready when the time came to add the dome,” she said. “We also got a new pool out of it.” The current pool was built in 1996 after the original pool, which was nearer to the park’s pond and dated to the 1950s, developed chronic leaks that could not be stopped.
Piedmont YMCA will take over daily management of the pool and fitness program in May, working under an agreement with the Crozet Park board.
“Two nonprofits are coming together to serve the community,” said Sonen. “We will still be open to daily drop-ins. We will still be the only public recreation center in the county and, really, it came from the community. We serve everybody. You don’t have to be a member. That’s just the tradition in Crozet.”
Construction of the dome system is scheduled to be done by late April. The pool will have its normal summer season, uncovered, and the dome will be put in place in September to be ready for the cold weather.
The project will include renovations to the community building next door to the pool, which will now connect to the pool, a new heating and air conditioning system that will allow wintertime use of locker rooms, as well as a limited amount of fitness equipment.
“This is the natural evolution of the building,” said Sonen, who noted that it started as a picnic shelter that was later enclosed. “The Y expects to outgrow it quickly.”
Sonen said the PARC does not want to compete with local commercial providers of fitness or physical rehabilitation programming. “We’ve talked to them,” she said. “Our equipment will be minimal and our focus is on youth sports and senior fitness. We will offer family programs, things for seniors to do in the pool and things like swimming lessons for kids after school. We’re emphasizing the pool.”
The installation of the dome means the park will create 40 year round jobs, Sonen said. It previously offered about 48 jobs every summer and has been a major employer of local teens for years.
Charlottesville-based Barton Malow company, a national construction management firm, will be the contractor. Its current projects include the renovation of Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California.
One of the company’s senior executives, Philip Kirby, lives next to the park in Parkside Village and Sonen credited him with determined efforts to hold down the cost of the project. “They are donating their construction fees to us,” she said. “If you priced this out without the donations being made, it would cost more than $1 million.”
To pay for the dome, the park committed to raise $200,000, mainly from receipts from the Crozet Arts and Crafts Festival, and initially asked local citizens to provide another $200,000. Of that, more than $53,000 was raised at the Party for the PARC (the acronym for the Crozet Park Aquatic and Recreation Center) held at King Family Vineyard in November of 2010; $10,000 was raised at the Crozet Fourth of July celebration last summer; $60,000 was contributed by the Perry Foundation and the reminder came in individual donations, the largest of which was $10,000, Sonen said. One donation of $20 was contributed by a Crozet Gators swimmer who set up a lemonade stand, and some money came as memorial donations in honor of the deceased.
“We started fundraising in 2009 with a small committee,” said Ravi Respeto, chair of the PARC fundraising group. “We figured out how to parcel out the project into manageable goals and we accomplished those in a fairly short time frame. We held people accountable for their piece of the job.
“We had to go back to the community for the additional $40,000 and to accomplish this in a down economy is really pretty amazing. It shows what impact committed citizens can have. The project is a statement about the power of community to focus on what’s better for everyone. Hopefully this sets a blueprint for the county. People should feel proud of it.
“You can inspire people to go the extra mile when they see others trying too,” Respeto said. “It gives them hope. It’s a snowball effect. For us, it was not an option not to raise the money. Cynthia Simpson is the unsung hero. She works tirelessly behind the scenes. She’s the nexus that keeps people going.”
After the park and Albemarle County reached an joint operating agreement in 1997, with the county taking over grounds maintenance, the county set aside $200,000 for park improvements such as new tennis courts, a new basketball court and a walking path around the park’s perimeter. In exchange for releasing the money now to pay for the community building renovations, the park would take over financial responsibility for building the new courts and trail and agrees to have them in place within seven years. Park attorney T.J Aldous, working pro bono, has drawn up the agreement for the swap.
Park leaders were enraged in December when county staffers suggested that the money be considered a loan and that the park should make repayments to the county, Sonen said.
PARC leaders insist they had an agreement to swap the performance of the projects and that the county is changing its course from what it said at earlier meetings. Meanwhile, thinking it was now responsible for doing them, the park has raised $65,000 to install three Quickstart tennis courts this spring.
Simpson said that to the surprise of PARC leaders, county attorney Larry Davis and parks and recreation department director Bob Crickenberger have recently argued that if the county makes a reallocation of the money it must operate within its procurement procedures. The transfer should not be a gift to the park but a loan, they say, and that when the park repays the loan the county will use that money to build the new courts and trails in a few years.
“We’re still battling over this,” said Simpson. “The $200,000 has been sitting in the bank for two years and at meetings last fall they said they could write us a check in 48 hours. We have emails about this. We want the Crozet community to know what the county has been saying before and how they are changing direction now.
“The county’s terms are very restrictive for the park and take control,” she said. “They are playing hard ball and we think they are trying to avoid giving us the money after all.”
Park officials believe the park can probably do the projects more cheaply, and certainly sooner, because people will donate effort to improving the park.