MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) — In early December 2021, Tennessee State Parks announced the swimming pool at Panther Creek and 10 other state parks would not reopen in 2022. Following this, officials in Morristown joined together to oppose the closing of Panther Creek’s pool.
Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain, Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney, and two county commissioners, whose districts are most impacted by the park, held a press conference Wednesday to share why they believe the park should stay open. Both mayors plan to present a joint resolution strongly urging state park officials to begin discussions with local leaders to keep the pool open in the coming weeks.
Tennessee State Park officials said that reopening was unfeasible due to aging facilities, declining visitation pre-COVID 19, and high expenses. For Pather Creek, the cost of repairs would be around $580,000 according to Brittain.
“We were not slain by the reasoning,” said Chesney. “The post-COVID pandemic return, the numbers not too bad considering the lack of usage during the shutdown but a pool is a very important part of park usages.”
Chesney went on to say that he believes the cost of keeping the park open was not too much for the state to handle especially when considering the $400,000 allocated to replace the pool.
“If the difference is a $180,000 and the state is constantly bragging about how much surplus money they have and in November of this year topped the one billion (with a b) mark to have a billion dollars in surplus. We think that kicking in 180,000 to keep a park pool open. We are not slain by the argument that it needs to be closed,” said Chesney.
The four all shared their concern over closing the only public pool in Hamblen County. They were also disappointed that they were not included in the decision to close the pool as it impacts the local community as well.
“This is a community facility and it’s played a major part for several people over the 36 years it’s been open. We want the pool to stay open,” said Commissioner Eileen Arnwine. “I want to emphasize that decision was made without input from our local leaders and our park supporters. There is strong support in Morristown and the Hamblen County community to keep this pool open.”
Throughout the press conference, the leaders stressed that keeping the pool open was important as it was the public swimming pool in the county. Commissioner Bobby Haun and Chesney also stressed the pool was an attraction that will draw people to the park and generate money for the local community.
Tennessee State Parks have outlined their plan to replace the pool with a recreational operation that can stay open year-round. They are accepting public comment for alternatives online until January 19, 2022.