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Galesburg community fights to save 80-year-old pool

Galesburg City Council is considering closing Hawthorne Pool, but over 1,200 people have signed a petition asking for it to remain open.

GALESBURG, Ill. — The Galesburg City Council is considering closing an 80-year-old public pool because necessary repairs the Hawthorne Pool building needs will cost the city millions of dollars, and it's not currently in the budget. 

"In April, we'll have to determine if the building is still viable for use," Mayor Peter Schwartzman said. "Some of the repairs that are required do necessitate major repairs … Humidity and chlorine and all that tends to have a significant effect on the wear and tear of a building."

Repairs would cost upwards of $2.3 million. 

One group of residents is fighting to save Hawthorne Pool. They all said they use the public pool several times a week for aquatic Zumba classes, something that some of them have been doing for over two decades. 

"We love the pool. It offers us so much area to workout," Linda Miller said. "It's not anything that could be done in any other pool in Galesburg because there's not the space."

Hawthorne Pool is also open year-round, compared to Lakeside. 

The city council had previously proposed partnering with and building a larger pool at the YMCA, if Hawthorne Pool closes, but Miller is not a fan of that. 

"Then it will belong to the Y, and that is a real concern," she said. "It is not a public pool. And they'll tell you that, 'Oh, we have 405 families that have scholarships.' You probably have twice that many who still can't afford it. And so they just don't go unless they go to Hawthorne."

But for this group, the pool is more than a place of exercise, and closing it is just another thing that the city is losing. 

"It's the camaraderie," Miller said. "You become a family. And we have people who come in and do it for a while a lot of people use it for therapy after they've had surgeries to get back going again … It really is just a really nice place for people to get together."

On Monday, Feb. 7, the Save Hawthorne Pool group presented the council with a petition that included 1,209 signatures from Galesburg residents who wanted the pool to stay. Schwartzman said he was impressed with this. 

"(It) is a very significant number given the size of this community," he said. "I've been on the council 10 years prior to becoming mayor, and I've seen initiatives like that go through, and 1,200 is about as large numbers you're going to find."

The city has also discussed wanting to build a community center, so the group is proposing that they build the community center around the Hawthorne Pool. 

"Here's what our vision can be, in order to save Hawthorne Pool is by adding to it," Molly Miller.

They're proposing adding a walking loop around the pool, multipurpose rooms for birthday parties or doing homework, pool and ping pong tables, a snack shack and an e-sports gaming area. 

"It seems like a perfect use of space and to really give it new purpose and really bring back the pool programs," she said. "You can learn to swim. They can do their Zumba and everything in the pool. It would really be a really awesome place."

Schwartzman said he hopes the city and the group can continue to work together to find a solution.

Two councilors suggested during Monday's meeting setting up a committee to do fundraising for a project related to Hawthorne Pool.

"To do any large project, whether it's build a new pool, whether we want to partner with another pool and add amenities to that and services and offset the costs with public money …We have to do what's right for the community," Schwartzman said.

For now, he said, the pool will remain open through at least March. Galesburg City Council discussions will continue through the spring. 

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