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Bellefonte pool swims out of the deep end with state grant

Kepler Pool welcomes about 7,000-10,000 visitors each summer, but needs maintenance work to rebuild aging infrastructure.
Kepler Pool welcomes about 7,000-10,000 visitors each summer, but needs maintenance work to rebuild aging infrastructure. Centre Daily Times, file

A Bellefonte neighborhood pool in danger of closing received more than $300,000 in grant money for much-needed repairs.

Kepler Pool was one of 280 projects across Pennsylvania — and five in Centre County — that received a grant through the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for improving recreational opportunities, conserving natural resources and bolstering local communities. The grant money is funded through the Keystone Fund (generated through the transfer tax), the Environmental Stewardship Fund, the ATV/Snowmobile Fund (generated through fees for license) and federal money, including some from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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The Nittany Valley Joint Recreation Authority, the four-municipality entity that manages Kepler Pool, will use the $334,800 to reconstruct the main pool and deck; install a pool liner and filtration, recirculation and chemical control systems; and improve ADA access and signage, among other things.

Michael Bonchack, chairman of the NVJRA, was surprised and pleased to hear about the awarding of the grant.

“That’s certainly good news,” he said. “The pool was built in 1971 ... and it’s a mess. There was just all kinds of problems. There are major water leaks.”

Kepler Pool welcomes about 7,000-10,000 visitors every summer season. But aging infrastructure has threatened the pool for almost a decade.

“It’s one maintenance issue after the other. And it can’t continue like that,” said Bonchack.

An estimate to rebuild the structure of the pool and install a new pump system, pool liner and other systems came in at $600,000, said Bonchack. Without the help of the DCNR grant, he said, “the pool was going to close.”

The grant is a 50 percent match, so Bellefonte Borough and Spring, Walker and Benner townships had to agree to contribute the matching funds if the grant were awarded.

“Now the work begins ... we gotta roll up our sleeves,” said Bonchack.

Next, the authority will have to put out bids for a pool advising company to help with the design process, which will probably take most of 2019, he said, with construction “optimistically” starting in 2020.

During that time, “we’re intending on trying to initiate a pretty serious local fundraising effort,” said Bonchack. The money from the fundraiser will go toward adding amenities to the pool that would make it more kid-friendly, such as a splash pad and a couple of slides.

Centre County fared well in the DCNR grant process, garnering $1.103 million for local parks and outdoor recreation.

Centre Region Parks and Recreation received $300,000 for the development of Whitehall Road Regional Park in Ferguson Township, on which work recently moved forward due to a Centre Region Council of Governments vote to allow a pump station on parkland to serve both the park and the Toll Brothers planned luxury student housing complex The Cottages. The grant will be used in the construction of stormwater management measures, the installation of play equipment with safety surfacing and fencing and ADA access, landscaping, project sign and other improvements.

Halfmoon Township was awarded $232,300 for the “rehabilitation and further development” of Autumn Meadow Park. The township will use the grant to construct pedestrian walkways, amphitheater seating, a comfort station, parking area, access drive and stormwater management measures; install play equipment with bleachers, safety surfacing and fencing; and ADA access, landscaping, project sign and other improvements.

Harris Township received $40,000 for the rehabilitation and development of Nittany View Park, which will include constructing pedestrian walkways and a parking area; installing play equipment with safety surfacing; and improving ADA access, landscaping, project sign and more.

And Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will acquire 248 acres of land in Haines Township for the Bald Eagle State Forest through a $531,000 grant that will assist with the purchase.

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