BELDEN — On the surface, one could say there’s nothing special about the Belden Pool.
After all, there’s none of the bells and whistles – no waterslide and no high dive. But you don’t have to dive too deep to find out it’s much more than just a rectangle filled with chlorine to Belden’s 127 residents.
Amy Kort lives two blocks from the pool and her children – Hannah, 12, and Mason, 10 – take a dip almost every day in the summer.
Hannah is deaf but her mother feels completely at ease with her spending time at the small-town pool.
“She has cochlear implants so when she gets in the water, she has to take them off,” Kort said. “They’re all really good about helping her and making sure, like when it’s time to get out, they alert her.”
Janice Wobbenhorst grew up in Belden and is the current village board chairwoman. She said everyone has fantastic memories of spending their summer days at the pool – including her.
She’s leading the charge to research what it would take to get the pool approved as an official historic landmark in Nebraska. The Belden Pool certainly meets the criteria of being historic because of its age alone – nearly 100 years old, making it the third oldest pool in the state.
The pool has continuously operated every year since it was built, so it may also be the oldest operating pool in the state, Wobbenhorst said.
Even the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t shutter the doors completely in 2020, said Melissa Campbell, Belden’s village clerk. The pool didn't open in May as it usually does, but it did open for a shortened season. That’s important also in being designated a historic landmark, as one of the stipulations is that the pool must have operated continuously every year, she said.
“Even last year during the pandemic, we had the pool open and gave them somewhere to go and something to do,” Wobbenhorst said. “It’s a tremendous resource.”
The pool sees up to 20 kids each summer day. Camp Assurance east of town sends their campers there to cool off on hot days. Coleridge also has a bus service that will drop off and pick up children from the Belden pool for a small fee, Campbell said.
“For a village the size of Belden to actually have a pool is wonderful because you look at bigger towns like Coleridge, Allen, those towns are a little bit bigger and would probably have more kids, but they don’t even have a pool,” Kort said. “They have to travel 20 miles or more to go swimming.”
With 100 years of service, the pool is starting to show its age. An immediate need is to put a liner on the pool to prevent leaks, Campbell said.
The village of Belden is currently working to secure grant funding for the liner and has undergone the steps necessary to secure the funds – pressure testing and engineering services.
Along with the required pool liner, the engineer gave recommendations. Bringing the pool into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act including a walk-in entry into the pool and a sidewalk from the street to the pool house entrance is required, Campbell said.
The town has rallied behind the cause of updating the pool by hosting village-wide garage sales with the proceeds going toward the costs. Soup dinner fundraisers have also been beneficial.
“The town is pretty proud of it,” Kort said. “We’re working hard trying to raise money to keep up the pool.”
She said the older couples in town are just as invested in keeping the pool operational as the families in town with young kids who utilize the pool more.
Wobbenhorst said that’s because everyone looks back fondly on their memories made at the pool.
“We’ve been getting donations from people and several letters have said, ‘This is from our family because we remember so fondly going to the pool every day in the summertime.’ Those are good memories,” she said.
Campbell has heard from some who talk about riding their bike from Laurel to go to the pool as the Belden pool was the only pool open at the time.
Keeping the pool open is essential for families to keep making those memories. It’s both important and rewarding work, Campbell said.
“It’s really fun for the kids,” she said. “My kids go every day. And just the history of it - older generations that still talk about it. We want to keep it up to date so it never closes.”
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