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Mayor: Newton’s Park and Recreation Commission to discuss proposed Gath Pool project Dec. 19

An overhead view of the outdoor public Gath Pool in Newtonville.Weston & Sampson, Inc.

Newton officials are considering a proposed redesign of the city’s Gath Pool that would create a pair of public outdoor pools, as well as improve accessibility at the Newtonville facility, they said.

The proposal, which could cost an estimated $6 million to $8 million, would include an 8-lane lap pool for swimmers and divers, as well as a separate recreational pool.

The concept also calls for a large splash pad, a modern bathhouse with a new changing room facility, and other improvements. The facility, including both pools, would be fully accessible — incorporating specialized ramps and hydraulic lifts intended to make it easier for people to enter the water.

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“The latest design of our new aquatics facility is incredibly family-friendly, universally accessible, and welcoming for people of all abilities and interests,” said Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, who unveiled the proposed design in a Dec. 9 statement.

The outdoor Gath Pool is located on Albemarle Road, and serves more than 30,000 users each season, according to the city.

The proposed project also would expand the footprint of the existing Gath Pool, and require demolishing a pair of nearby tennis courts. Officials would seek to replace those courts with a half-dozen pickleball courts as part of a separate upgrade project for the nearby Albemarle field, Nicole Banks, the commissioner of the city’s Parks, Recreation & Culture Department, said in an interview.

A diagram of a proposed two-pool design for the Gath Pool in Newtonville.BH+A, Inc.

Pool project funding would largely come from Newton’s Community Preservation Act, according to Josh Morse, Newton’s building commissioner. That funding would require approval from the city Community Preservation Commission. CPA funds are supported by a property tax surcharge and reserved for uses like outdoor recreation facilities, as well as land or historic preservation, and affordable housing.

Fuller also has allocated $1 million for the project from the city’s share of American Rescue Plan Act money. State Representative Kay Khan also secured a $400,000 earmark in the state budget for the Gath Pool, Morse said in an interview.

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The Gath Pool project would not be included as part of a proposed $15 million tax hike, Morse said in an interview. City residents will vote on the proposed tax increase — which includes money for schools, city budgets, and building projects — in the spring.

The pool proposal would ultimately need approval by the Newton City Council.

If approved, the existing Gath Pool would be used for the summer 2023 season, then would be replaced by the new facility, Banks said. The city’s goal is to have the project done in time for the summer 2024 season.

The proposal is being reviewed by city boards, including the Commission on Disability. Eileen Sandberg, a cochair of the commission, said in an e-mail that the proposed Gath Pool “renovations and increased accessibility are very welcome and important to the community.”

The Parks and Recreation Commission will meet to discuss the project Monday at 7 p.m., according to Fuller.

Check for a link to the meeting at the Park and Recreation Commission’s website: newtonma.gov/government/parks-recreation-culture/park-recreation-commission.

City officials have been working for more than a year on a replacement for the existing Gath Pool facility, which was built about 60 years ago, and is past its useful life. Officials have said the aging outdoor pool has become expensive to maintain, and leaks thousands of gallons of water a day when it’s in use.

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The facility also predates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and while it has been upgraded over the years, making use of it can still pose challenges to some people.

Banks said that during public discussions and focus group meetings regarding the project, city officials learned that some people may not go to the Gath Pool because they don’t feel comfortable there.

The existing changing facilities don’t allow some people to take care of themselves without assistance, for example. Or there isn’t enough room for people to easily get around.

While planning the new pool facility, officials wanted to ensure that it was “built for everyone,” Banks said.

“We have a large number of people with disabilities in the city, and a lot of older adults who utilize the pool or would like to utilize the pool,” Banks said. “We’re really just trying to look at breaking down barriers with the new design to make sure that everyone is welcome and capable of visiting.”

Cedar Pruitt, president of the neighborhood group Friends of Albemarle, praised the proposed project. In an e-mail, she said the group appreciated the city’s “willingness to pivot” in response to community feedback.

“We’re excited for the new plans, which accommodate our many recreational and competitive swimmers, and will be fully accessible,” Pruitt said.

More information about the proposed Gath Pool project is available on the city’s website: newtonma.gov/government/parks-recreation-culture/aquatics/gath-memorial-pool-renovation-project.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.