An Eichler Pool Reopens with a Splash

The 'Big Splash' marked the official reopening of the Greenmeadow pool, part of a major two-part construction project that will benefit the community and has benefited from community support and foresight. Photo by Sunny Jefferson

It took mere seconds for several dozen kids to leap into the Greenmeadow pool, creating the first ‘Big Splash’ in the newly rebuilt pool’s history. But it took well over a decade to see the project to success.

“For me personally it’s been about two years,” says Josh Feira, president of the Greenmeadow Community Association, which runs the pool and adjoining community building and park. “For the community as a whole it’s been a decade or more.”

All three of Josh’s kids, who range in age from 7 to 10, jumped into the pool on its ceremonial reopening day, April 8, in the traditional let’s-all-jump-in-at-the-same-time splash that inaugurates swim season every year.

This year was special though because it’s a whole new pool, and folks in Greenmeadow, an Eichler tract built starting in the mid 1950s in Palo Alto, are feeling good. Not only is their pool renovated, but the walls are going up for a brand new community center – which is something the neighborhood has never had before.

Edouard Eltherington is more than the lifeguard who was on duty during Big Splash. For his Eagle Scout project he created a bench at the pool. Photo by Sunny Jefferson

“We had a bigger turnout than we had expected,” Jeff Kmetec says of the pool party. Jeff is project manager for the approximately $2.5 million pool-clubhouse project. About 300 people enjoyed a swim, the root beer floats, and other snacks.

“We didn’t push [the event] up too much because the clubhouse is still a construction zone,” says Jeff, who contributed many hours as a volunteer. “We can’t walk on the grass yet.”

The pool was completed on schedule, he says, in time for the start of swim season for the Marlins, the super popular Greenmeadow team. The cost for the pool job was about $750,000.

“I actually went for a swim on March 31,” Jeff says, claiming to be the first one to swim in the new pool. “I was the one who jumped in and pulled the lane lines [into place].”

Other early swimmers included Josh and one of his daughters, who made sure to be there the instant the pool opened for swimming, on April 2. (Since April 1 was Easter, the pool remained closed.)

 “The pool opens at 6 a.m. for lap swim,” Josh says. “The first day my oldest daughter wanted to be there when it opened. We set our alarm for 5:45 and went down the street. So in the middle of the night we were swimming.”

It’s convenient, he notes, that the pool has underwater lighting. “The pool is open year round,” he says, “so as the days grow dark, that will be useful.”

The community center remains a construction zone, as seen in this photo shot in late March. It will open in September or October. Photo by Dave Weinstein

The rebuilding of the pool and construction of a new community center says much about the strength of the Greenmeadow community, not only its willingness to provide funding and volunteers, but to plan for the future.

“We had several residents running a capital campaign to get donations,” Jeff says. “We raised almost $150,000 from members.”

The community campaign, Josh says, was to fund amenities, “the touches that turn this building into a home, like an outdoor dining area, nice landscaping, nice furnishings in the clubhouse, fun tiles on the pool. Fun animals.”

“We wanted to make it feel like a home.”

Most funding came from the association’s reserve fund and from a bank loan. For the reserve fund Jeff hastens to thank people who got involved years before he did, including Gabe Groner and Mitch Rosen. “They’re the fathers of the reserve that enabled this project,” Jeff says.

Jeff also mentioned volunteers Sherry Listgarten for her work on clubhouse design and city permits; John Ortiz for the same and for managing the general contractor; and Velu Sinha, the association treasurer for arranging financing and doing the accounting.

“The key was, maybe 15 years ago or a little more, several residents saw the need to start saving money to do pool repairs, even though there was no obvious problem then. They created a reserve fund that allowed this project to go forward.”

Kids enjoy the pool during the official opening. Photo by Sunny Jefferson

The quest for a renewed pool and community center did not go entirely smoothly. An earlier plan to use the reserve funds to “enhance the facility,” Jeff says, was “heavily voted down” by association members, because the funds would not have renovated the pool, which people understood needed to be done if it were to continue in use long term.

A few years later the project was resurrected, he says. “It was intended to rejuvenate the pool. That was a priority from the beginning. That brought in the support of a lot of people. The money was being used as intended.”

Jeff praises the work of the volunteers and board members who preceded him on the task, mentioning "Tim Foy, who led the effort," and Patrick Everett, Aimee Jose, and Sean Giffen. “They did a lot of community work,” Jeff says. “A lot.”

Then, Jeff continues the tale, it was discovered that all the ideas people had for the pool and community center would simply cost too much. That was followed by “a period when we would see what we could afford to do. The repair of the pool was a must. I picked up then, got the treasurer to join. We convinced the community that we really could make this happen. The general attitude was, just do it.”

The trees that loom behind this Greenmeadow home are on the association's park and community center-pool property, forming the centerpiece for the neighborhood. Photo by Dave Weinstein

The pool project proved to be a bit of an archeological dig as well, revealing some buried beach balls and showing where the edges of original, 1954 pool has been. The pool had been enlarged in 1985, six lanes with deep and shallow ends. The pool remains that size.

One change will be good for health, Josh says. “Now we have a much better chemical system. It’s much safer,” he says. “We pump in good old carbon dioxide and reduce the use of chlorine and other chemicals by about 50 percent. It’s much easier on the eyes.”

While the pool has always allowed for strong community among swimmers and their families, the lack of a real clubhouse has not allowed for the community to as readily reach non-swimmers. Until now, Greenmeadow has had to make do with a small community room in a building also used for a school.

With a new community center, slated to open in the fall, Josh says, “We have a lot of new activities planned. We want to do a neighborhood Friday night dinner. We have a new outdoor kitchen. It’ll be fun.” They also plan a summer camp, “with the teenagers from the neighborhood as counselors. The clubhouse is central to that.”

“Those are two excellent new programs we couldn’t do before.”

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