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Friday, May 21, 2010
GRAYDON POOL landed on a top-10 list this week — but it was hardly an honor. The 2.8-acre stream-fed swimming pool, part of a lush 7-acre park in Ridgewood, was ranked as one of the state’s most endangered historic sites by Preservation New Jersey.
Graydon became the village’s first public park after the land was set aside a century ago this month. Its pool — called a "plake" for its natural setting and construction — was built in 1918 by damming the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook. It was expanded in 1936 as part of the federal Works Progress Administration, but remains at heart a rustic swimming hole.
And that’s the problem — at least when it comes to public perception. The plake has a sandy bottom. Its waters are far from the glistening aqua color that Americans have come to expect. Swimmers sometimes encounter minnows and ducks.
Ridgewood prides itself on its tastefully restored, stately homes, municipal buildings and downtown. But over the years, historic Graydon Pool was nudged off that list. Some residents soured on a setting that was perhaps too natural, what with all the leaves, silt and geese. A municipal committee put forth a controversial $13 million plan to replace the plake with four concrete, chlorinated pools. The recession has stalled that plan. At least for now.
What a relief. Any town can dig, cement and paint a chlorinated pool — or even four — anytime. Only Ridgewood can tend this historic plake. Especially in crowded, frenzied North Jersey, such subdued freshwater pools should be celebrated and protected. Just look to the Highlands Natural Pool in Ringwood, where a robust volunteer effort has kept it clean and popular for 75 years.
Happily, the good work in Ridgewood has already begun. As one committee planned for the plake’s replacement, another effort emerged to promote and modernize Graydon as it is. New natural chemicals, as well as some chlorine, are helping keep the water clean. New diffusers are aerating the water, which is now clear to a depth of 12 feet. Commonsense approaches to discouraging geese are underway, including visits by goose-chasing dogs and covering the plake’s rafts with tarps at night.
Any pool needs constant tending, whether it relies on chemicals or natural filters and outflow to keep bacteria at bay. Replacing this historic, natural pool with painted concrete wouldn’t rid Ridgewood of that responsibility. It would only rid Ridgewood of its most unique feature. Preserve Graydon Pool.