Measure of success is not just monetary

Published 12:34 am Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Natchez’s new community swimming pool is off to a good start.

Leaders say membership and swimming fees so far have carried the cost of labor most days, although no hard budget figures have been made available.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell did say, however, that the city has made its final payment of $16,000 for its portion of the pool’s construction.

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Success, however, for such a project is not only measured by monetary success.

The real measure of success for such a recreational project is whether the community has embraced the project.

Judging by the number of visitors throughout the summer before school resumed earlier this month, the community has embraced the pool with an average of 50 visitors per day at the peak of the summer and 20 visitors per day toward the end of the summer, YMCA of Natchez Director Alice Agner said.

If that were not enough, some 30 members have signed up to be members of the Natchez swim team, swim instructor and team coach Monica Bihm said. That figure comes after only a couple of weeks of recruitment.

USA Swimming, which is the official governing body of competitive swimming in the United States, has sanctioned the swim team, and USA Swimming is responsible for selecting USA swim team members who compete in the Olympics.

That’s a big deal, and the swim team is under the direction of Sunkist Swim Club of Jackson, whose coach, David Orr, has been involved in competitive swimming for decades.

Orr credits the Natchez’s strong interest in competitive swimming to Roseminette Gaude’s influence from coaching a swim team in the city in the 1970s and 1980s at Duncan Park’s now closed pool.

The city even hosted a championship under Gaude’s direction during that era.

Gaude is a great ambassador for competitive swimming and is excited about the prospects of Natchez’s pool to host regional competitive swim meets.

She is so excited about the prospects of the swimming pool she recently stopped by the office to pitch a story about the pool, its bourgeoning swim team and the potential economic impact for the area.

Bihm said many of the current swim team members are children and grandchildren of people who competed under Gaude’s leadership.

Beyond competition, though, the pool has great leisure potential for people to just enjoy a day at the pool, and for many people, the facility offers the opportunity to learn the important life skill of swimming.

Everyone should know how to swim. It could make the difference in life or death if you happen to fall into the water, and area leaders have expressed a desire develop programs to get more people trained to swim, whether it be through curriculum opportunities within the Natchez-Adams School District or through a partnership with the vacation Bible schools of area churches or senior citizen centers in Natchez.

The community swimming pool was a big investment, but it appears to have been a good one, and having the YMCA manage it and Sunkist Swim Club head up the swim team were even better ideas.

That partnership could help the pool not only pay for itself but also become a revenue generator not only for the city but also for area merchants.

If all goes as planned, the pool could be hosting swim meets in the spring with out-of-town visitors coming to the area, eating at restaurants, shopping with local merchants and some of them even staying overnight at area hotels.

The Natchez community swimming pool is a great asset to the community.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 1-601-445-3540 or