STARKVILLE — Hamp Beatty and his wife visit the Moncrief Park pool at least twice a week.
The Ward 5 alderman made it a priority over the past year to spruce up the pool and make it more accessible for the community. Built during the 1950s, the pool greatly needed improvements if community members wanted to utilize it, and Beatty made sure the upgrades were a priority.
“What we want is to provide the availability of swimming in the city to people who either would choose not to or can’t afford to attend a private club,” Beatty said. “This is one of these activities that tax dollars should go towards, and people would expect it in a city the size of Starkville. It gives people a place to go swim for people that like to go do that.”
Beatty said over the past several years, the pool had “gone down.” He reached out to the Starkville Parks and Recreation Department last year about bettering the pool and throughout the winter months, they worked together to find solutions to repair it.
Parks and Rec made improvements to the pool through available money in the department’s budget such as establishing new signage, painting the pool deck and putting pool chairs out for residents to use. While the pool may be older, Beatty said it is now a nice venue in which people can spend their time this summer.
“We’ve had good success with utilization of the pool this year,” Beatty said. “My wife and I were swimming over there for the July 4 weekend, and there were 50 plus people at the pool, so I think people really like to utilize the swimming pool.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pool was closed last year but has been open this year all summer long. Parks and Rec extended hours from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and decided to open the pool on Sunday afternoons for the first time.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said she believes utilization of the pool represents a sense of getting back to normal after a time that has not been so normal.
While she said she is pleased with the improvements already made to the pool, the pool has some major piping issues that need to be addressed, but for a facility that is only used for three months a year, the city will have to consider how these needs compare to other priorities when allocating resources.
“We tried to clean it up and make it a more user-friendly location,” Spruill said. “Additional work has gone into fixing fences and generally making it all around a more pleasing environment, but we still have some fairly major work that needs to be done on pumps and piping.”
Aside from general swimming, which is held in the afternoons, the pool serves several other purposes. One swim team in the area uses the pool for practices some mornings, and Parks and Rec has been offering swimming lessons throughout the summer.
Parks and Rec has also been proactive in creating events to bring in community members to visit the pool.
On July 24, from 10 a.m. to noon, the department will host a “pool olympics” event to promote the Tokyo Summer Olympics and being active. Athletic Director Gretchen Reeves said this event is a great way for kids to be with their friends while also promoting physical activity.
At a cost of $10 to go toward Parks and Rec, kids will participate in tug of war, relay races, a cannonball contest and other activities throughout the event.
“Kids can come out and compete in six different sporting events,” Reeves said. “It’s kind of a way to kick off the summer olympics. It’s just a fun way to get the community involved and a way to get kids active.”
Reeves said the department has striven all summer to create events to bring in community members to the pool.
Through Hawaiian Day at the pool last week to a dive-in movie showing on July 31, Reeves said Moncrief pool is a safe place for kids to come during the summer.
“There aren’t a lot of places in town that school-aged kids can go to, so this is a fun, safe place for them to go while being active,” Reeves said. “It’s just another form of physical activity that the city offers to them.”
Beatty said to “be on the lookout” for more improvements made to the pool in the upcoming year such as a nice lighting system and replacement of a filtration system. He said he helped start this process and wants to continue it.
“Expect us to continue making improvements to the pool,” Beatty said. “I’m committed to that. I want it to be very nice. I want it to be a place that people enjoy coming to.”