UPDATE: Per the Township Manager, anyone who purchased a Montclair pool season pass and will not use Mountainside, can go to the Recreation Dept. and request a refund, says Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis.
“After hearing from staff, I’m confident that it’s highly unlikely that Nishuane and Essex Pools will open at all this summer. Residents should plan accordingly and I’m sorry that we didn’t tell you that until now,” adds Yacobellis.
Montclair knew it would start the summer with only one pool, Mountainside, opening on time, but there was hope that by now, families would be splashing around at Montclair’s other two municipal pools, Essex and Nishuane.
Back in early May the Township’s Recreation Department said of the 2022 Pool Season:
Due to the scope of construction at Essex and Nishuane Parks, Mountainside Pool will open on Saturday, May 28, 2022 and operate on weekends until June 28, 2022. Pool hours will be 11am to 8pm. On June 29, 2022, we anticipate to open Nishuane and Essex Pools depending on the completion of the construction surrounding the pool areas. We will be providing updated information about the construction work.
Nishuane and Essex Pools did not open as anticipated on June 29, and it’s looking like an even longer, hotter summer for families who rely on their neighborhood pools to cool off, kick back (and maybe even see a duck swimming). Why can’t Montclair get a better handle on its pools? (longtime readers will remember a late pool opening in 2010, but that time it was budget cuts, not construction delays.)
According to Township Communications Director Katya Wowk, every effort will be made to open Nishuane Pool as soon as possible after completion of major construction items related to the project and when the area is deemed safe.
Construction at Nishuane Park began shortly after authorization to proceed was issued on May 5, 2022. Major construction items at Nishuane Park are expected to be completed within the next 4-6 weeks, weather permitting and barring unforeseen circumstances.
The reason for the construction halt, says Wowk, was due to the contractor experiencing construction, material and staffing issues as the result of the pandemic.
The pools must be closed during construction because it is unsafe to allow pedestrian activity, especially activities that may involve children, to be conducted near an active construction site.
Meanwhile, Essex Park construction won’t start until after Nishuane Park is completed, but getting the Essex Pool to open in the meantime isn’t an option, says Wowk, given that opening a municipal pool for public use requires a lot of preparation to meet NJ Department of Health standards and secure approval by the local health authority.
There is no transportation being offered to Mountainside Pool, but Mountainside Pool hours are being extended. In the past, the pools were open from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 12:00 to 8:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. This year the pools are open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily. To date, Mountainside Pool has not been at full capacity at any time, adds Wowk.
On Wednesday, Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis stated that it was not OK for the town to charge families full price with two out of three pools out of commission.
“When I voted to authorize these projects; I certainly didn’t know we would find ourselves without someone in a central role of planning, forecasting and communicating with the whole community — basic expectation setting, again,” said Yacobellis. “The same happened with the Midtown parking deck and last year with our parking meters. One unforced error after another, when we have enough actual problems. Clearly I need to ask more pointed questions and the Mayor and Council has to do more to hold staff accountable. This town deserves better than constant excuses for what ultimately is poor planning and even poorer communication. I’m certainly not excusing any of it.”
Yacobellis added that the pandemic supply chain issues are not new and if the pools/parks could not be completed in time for summer, then they should have been started after summer.
For tweens, teens and families who would normally walk to the closest pool rather than drive, the quickest way to get to Mountainside would be the train.
Families who live near the Bay Street, Walnut, Watchung or Upper Montclair train stations could take the train to Mountain Avenue stop for a short walk to Mountainside Pool.
Families who live near Nishuane Park would need to take two buses to reach the Mountainside – the #34 and then #28 and then walk for an almost hour long trip to the pool. From Essex Pool to Mountainside is a 21 minute trip on the #28. A bus to train would cut the time down, too.