EASTOVER, SC “Isn’t it time for the break to end?”
It’s a standard whine for kids at swimming pools, first heard in Eastover Thursday about an hour after the grand opening ceremony at the new Eastover Park pool.
Twenty children waded into the pool after the event, slowly adjusting to the cool water on a hot summer day. Several seemed wary, saying they didn’t know how to swim. The slow-entry section that’s only 1- foot deep was ideal for them.
Forty-five minutes later, they weren’t ready to get out of the water when lifeguards called for the first break of the day, and several were begging the lifeguards to let them back in as the break seemed to drag on.
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Fostering that love for swimming was one of the goals when local leaders decades ago began lobbying the Richland County Recreation Commission to build a pool in the southeast end of the county. Their pleas were denied for years, until Richland County Council approved a $50 million recreation bond in 2008.
The $1.6 million Eastover pool was among dozens of projects financed by the bond, and it’s a twin to the St. Andrews Park pool opened last summer.
“We finally put swimming in our community,” said County Council member Kelvin Washington. “We have a diverse community out here – seniors, elementary and middle school students – who need to be exposed to swimming.”
Several speakers brought up the safety angle. Many rural residents, adults and children, don’t know how to swim. The first round of lessons at the new pool start Monday.
“We didn’t have this opportunity,” said J. Marie Green, chairwoman of the recreation commission and a resident of the area. “Our parents didn’t want us out in the water. They didn’t want us in the creeks with all the snakes.”
After the ceremony, Green relaxed around a table with a group of local women. They all said they plan to take swimming lessons. They want to spend time with children, grandchildren and other young relatives at the pool, and they don’t plan to let the lifeguards be the only ones watching out for their little ones.
“We’re going to learn with them and enjoy them,” Green said.
The commission now runs four pools spread throughout the county – at Eastover, St. Andrews, Trenholm and Hopkins parks.