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Aquatic center set to splash May 26

Aquatic center set to splash May 26
Aquatic center set to splash May 26
Stacy Zehnder of the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau checks out a small slide in the wading pool of the aquatic center at O'Bannon Woods State Park. The center is set to open May 26 and will be dedicated June 6. (Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor)

The aquatic center at O’Bannon Woods State Park is set to open Saturday, May 26, just in time to make a splash on Memorial Day weekend. Its official dedication will be Wednesday, June 6, at 11 a.m.
Park manager Bob Sawtelle gave several members of the Harrison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, as well as others associated with tourism, a sneak preview of the facility last Wednesday.
‘We’re working hard to get the job done,’ Sawtelle said.
Concrete around the entrance to the aquatic center was scheduled to be poured that day. Crews were still working on the bath house, and other workers were preparing a lawn area where swimmers on break ‘ those who just want to catch a few rays ‘ can place a beach towel.
The aquatic center will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sawtelle said. And admission will be $2 per person, after gate admission to the park.
‘We want to be that family destination,’ Sawtelle said while talking about the fee.
It’s been six years since patrons could swim in the forest. The Olympic-size pool that was built in 1979 was closed at the end of the 2001 season due to costly needed repairs.
The new pool, referred to as the ‘activity pool,’ has a maximum depth of five feet, with a gradual slope. At the deepest end are two slides, one tubular and the other spiral. A chair lift will allow persons with physical limitations access to the pool.
Adjacent to the activity pool is a splash pad and wading pool. Highlights for children include a sprinkler, a giant frog whose tongue is actually a small slide and water blasters.
Krempp Lumber Co. of Jasper is the contractor for the $3.4 million project.
‘We’re extremely pleased with the work they’ve done,’ Sawtelle said.
The bath house, while similar in size and layout to the old one, is about 20 percent larger, Sawtelle said.
The aquatic center will not have a concession stand, but instead offer vending machines. Patrons to the pool will be allowed to take in bottled water.
Twelve lifeguards will oversee the aquatic center, and Leslie Grow will manage the pool.
During the dedication program on June 6, Robert E. Carter Jr., director of the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, will be the guest speaker.
In addition to the aquatic center, an open house of the entire property will be held. That will include a public showing of the superintendent’s house. Sawtelle said the house ‘ the original structure was built in 1936 by laborers from the CCC ‘ has never been open to the public. The house was enlarged in 1980.
Persons who aren’t afraid of heights may venture to the top of the recently renovated fire tower.
The cabin at the very top of the tower is now open to the public, Sawtelle said.
Originally built in 1932, the tower was replaced in 1941 after being destroyed by fire.
The Nature Center will be open and staffed, and the front office, which has also been renovated, will be open for viewing.
On June 6, the gate fee to O’Bannon Woods will be waived until about 3 p.m., Sawtelle said.
Sawtelle said that traffic at the state park will determine if, or when, the site gets an inn, an amenity found at many of the facilities in the state.
‘We’re still a little ways off from that,’ Sawtelle said.
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