Green Woods Swim Club at 60: Honoring its past, reconstructing its future
● By Richard Gaw
Christina Sinton-Gorman, Jay March and Amy Calhoun of the Green Woods Swim Club.
In 1958, a newly formed committee met to discuss the possibility of canvassing Kennett Township, in order to find the perfect place to form a club for the community that would be highlighted by an in-ground-pool.
Eventually that group, headed by Helen Paterson and Mary Ellen Snyder, found that precious spot, located 100 yards south of the intersection of routes 1 and 52, on Maple Lane in Chadds Ford.
With the work of volunteers and contractors, the Green Woods Swim Club was formed in 1959, and for the past 60 years, families and swim clubs have come to know the 25-meter, L-shaped pool as a place to compete, share the summer sun, and as a seven-acre refuge that's come to serve as the rec room for hundreds of families in Kennett Square, Chadds Ford and beyond.
Now, as the club prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary with a grand opening on May 25, it does so with the necessary evil of bringing its past into its future.
The pool is in the first stage of a two-year renovation process that will refurbish the 60-year-old structure, and also give the Club's grounds a touch-up. The first stage, currently in progress, will include structural repairs and improvements that will fix leaks and cracks, add new coping and tiles, and create a new set of steps that will lead to the pool on its most shallow end. In 2020, the pool will receive upgrades to its filtration system, and the club will purchase new cleaning equipment, including a new automated pool vacuum.
As of last week, the tile and coping installation and repair had been completed. The painting of the pool – which will include swim lanes and other markings – is expected to begin on May 1 and be completed by the middle of May.
The cost of the renovation is estimated between $105,000 and $120,000, and is being funded through small increases in membership fees, and from the club's operating budget and reserves. The project is being conducted by Downingtown-based Vision Pools, Inc., and the work of member volunteers.
Over the past five years, the club's Board of Directors had been addressing the need to fund a complete renovation of the pool, and realized over time that a “band-aid” approach to the pool's maintenance was no longer viable.
“Every year, we'd do a leak detection system every fall, where a scuba diver would dive in and detect where all of the existing and potential leaks were in the pool,” said Jay March, pool and grounds co-director, who has been a member of the Green Woods Club for the past seven years. “We'd then patch those leaks every year, but the nature of concrete is that it will crack somewhere, and although we were solving the problem, we were never really getting to the core of the problem.”
The club currently has a membership of 285 “bonds” (individual and family) that's not only drawn from Kennett Square and Chadds Ford, but as far west as Jennersville and as far east as North Wilmington. For those who are interested in joining, the club also maintains a healthy wait list for future members, “but by the time construction on the pool is completed, anyone who does join will have an opportunity basically to join a brand new pool,” said grounds and pool co-director Amy Calhoun, who has been a member with her family for the past four years. “We consistently maintain a wait list, and are in the process of offering membership to those on the list already. However, we are actively accepting applications with the potential of membership for this season, so I encourage anyone interested to fill in an application as soon as possible.”
The club also offers an August membership to those who are currently on the wait list, which allows families and individuals the opportunity to “try the pool on for size” for an entire month.
While the signature definition of the Green Woods Swim Club is that of an intimate family gathering encircled by tall trees and privacy, it's also known for its swim team, which has introduced thousands of youngsters to the benefits of swimming and to the thrill of competition against other area club teams. Each year's team consists of swimmers from 4 to 18 years of age, who are divided among age groups. Practices are held five mornings a week through the end of July, and all swimmers compete as a team.
“From every age, our coaches work their practices around everybody's needs, so that each swimmer is grouped with their peers and their friends,” said Christina Sinton-Gorman, swim team coordinator and former board member. “While we've offered competition and helped develop those who have gone on to swim at the collegiate level and the Olympic trials, we pride ourselves on the belief that swimming is a lifelong skill. That's what our coaches really try to instill in our kids.”
A lifelong member, Sinton-Gorman called the Green Woods Swim Club “one of the best kept secrets in the community.”
“It's the simplicity of it that our members love,” said Sinton-Gorman, whose children have been members their entire lives. “You're outside with the greenery and nature that surrounds us, along with family and friends. My kids began to make friends here when they were toddlers, and they all remain friends to this day. There's a feeling of the extended family here.”
March, Sinton-Gorman and Calhoun do not anticipate that the May 25 re-opening at the Green Woods Swim Club will look anything different than what they and their families have come to enjoy every year. While it likely won't include a cut-the-ribbon opening ceremony on its new pool, they anticipate that several families will contribute to a pot-luck dinner at the club's pavilion, while board members flip burgers and hot dogs.
“I can close my eyes and hear the diving board bounce, the water splashing, the kids laughing, families chatting and an occasional lifeguard whistle going off,” Sinton-Gorman said. “I can't wait to hear it all again in a few weeks.”
“I think a few of us may stand at the front gate and welcome everyone back, and tell them, 'Come see what we've done,'” March said.
The Green Woods Swim Club is located at 9 Maple Lane in Chadds Ford. To learn more about the club and to get on its wait list, visit www.greenwoodspool.com. The club is also accepting applications for lifeguards for its 2019 season.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.