GREENWICH — Labor Day weekend will not just be an unofficial goodbye to summer. It will also be the end of the season for the new municipal pool in Byram Park.
Monday is the last day the pool will be open until May, and town Director of Parks and Recreation Joseph Siciliano declared its first year a success both for the town and for the residents.
“The first season went really well,” Siciliano said before the holiday weekend. “We anticipated some of the challenges we might face for our first year, and we set things up for us to be able to manage them successfully. I’m very pleased with how things went, and I think that the public was very receptive to what we did.”
After opening to great fanfare in late June — just in time for the Fourth of July holiday — the pool immediately saw a surge of users. On one of its first days, Siciliano said that 1,202 people enjoyed the pool during one eight-hour session. Attendance settled into an average of 900 to 1,000 people a day.
Attendance leveled off through the summer, Siciliano said. In August, when many residents were away on vacation, numbers there dropped to between 500 and 600 people a day, he said. In the last days of the season, as students returned to school, Siciliano said the pool was averaging around 300 people a day.
“We’ve been getting good feedback, and it’s been a very positive experience,” he said. “There are also things we can learn from.”
With the first season nearly complete, Siciliano said the focus will soon turn toward next year, when the pool is set to reopen for Memorial Day weekend. For 2019, the pool will be open for the full summer season — from Memorial Day to Labor Day — for the first time.
After the pool closes next week, “we will sit down and talk about what we can adjust and see what changes can be made for the next season,” Siciliano said.
At every visit he made to the pool, he said he heard a lot of positive feedback as well as suggestions for adjustments. Some users asked for more time in the afternoon for seniors to use the pool (instead of just in the morning) and others sought parking improvements.
With more people using the park, the new parking lot at Byram Beach was often full, making for a long walk to the pool for some.
Adding more shade to the pool area — by installing another covered area or planting trees — is another possibility, Siciliano said.
He said there would be discussions about a possible change in the pool’s access policy, which would have to be approved by the Board of Selectmen. Currently, the pool is only open to residents who have beach passes for the season and their guests. Guests are limited through the season and can’t come on their own, a policy that extends to both non-residents and non-beach pass holders.
The policy was first set in 2016, and Sicliano left the door open at the time to changes after the Department of Parks and Recreation determined how many people used the pool.
“We’re going to look at it again,” he said. “It’s definitely on our list of things we will look at over the winter.”
Residents were also unhappy that they could not bring beach chairs to the poolside area, he said, explaining that the policy was put in place to keep people from taking up space by the pool for hours at a time. He said the department wanted to keep a flow of people moving through the area.
The old pool, which had been converted from a private estate to municipal use, often leaked and had long lines. The new pool, with a maximum capacity of 300, won rave reviews when it opened. Pool fans praised its size and zero-depth accessibility, which allowed more people to use it.
Funding for the $9.5 million pool complex, which included improvements to Byram Park, was raised through a public/private partnership between the town and the Junior League of Greenwich. The league committed to a $2.5 million capital campaign, which is almost at its goal and will continue into 2019.
Junior League President Elizabeth Cook Peyton and members Debby Lash and Carisa Sykes, who co-chair the pool committee, were all part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony in late June. And seeing the pool’s popularity made them feel the effort was worth it.
“It was a proud day for the Junior League of Greenwich when the pool opened for its first season, and the enthusiastic response from the community since then has made us even prouder,” Peyton said. “So many members of the community supported the pool project throughout the eight years the league spent working on it. It has been gratifying to see them, along with thousands more of our fellow residents, enjoying the pool in its first summer.”