This weekend, Charlottesville celebrates a surprising birthday and is inviting the public to a party.
Even for residents of nearby Charlottesville, the Blue Ridge Swim Club may be a surprise – a one-of-a-kind place where cicadas, tree frogs and birds provide a natural soundtrack.
At the end of an unpaved, single lane off Owensville Road in Ivy, you park in the grass and follow a winding path down a hill, through a forest of old growth trees to a fresh water pool the length of a football field.
Owner Todd Barnett, who runs a summer camp for kids on 14 acres surrounding the pool, believes it was built in 1913 for a boys camp, with the help of an engineer who worked on the Panama Canal. That would make it a hundred years old. “There are two older pools in Colorado, but none older than this, and I think the reason that’s the case has to do with social factors and physical factors.”
The social factors include the civil rights movement, when some places closed their public pools rather than integrate them. The physical factors are maintenance and the ease with which many communities filled in their old swimming pools and built new ones.
Whatever the reason, Barnett says the Blue Ridge sparks memories of another time – when homes were not air conditioned and a muggy summer afternoon led, naturally, to the neighborhood pool.
“Even right now, more than half the pool is in shade. It’s these grand big trees. The water stays probably ten degrees cooler than every other pool in town at all times. Yesterday the temperature was 68. We have a diving board, picnic grounds and places to relax. You even have inner tubes in the pool I think. that you can always find a tube, and a lot of people just like to float in the pool and relax and chat.”
The water comes from a stream off Ivy Creek, so it’s not unusual to find frogs, tadpoles and tiny fish in the pool, but for those who reject the super-chlorinated faux blue of modern swimming pools, this one is a pleasure, and its members invite the public to share in their birthday celebration from noon to eight, Saturday and Sunday, at no charge.