Swimmers are already whetting their appetite for the coming swim season, and the historic Manuka Pool is getting ready to dive into its 90th-anniversary celebrations.
Outdoor public pools at Civic, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin, Dickson and Manuka are opening today (31 October) after the bulk of last season was tainted by smoke from bushfires and then the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the border, the Queanbeyan-Palerang Shire Council gave the go-ahead to open their outdoor pools on 3 October.
Friends of Manuka Pool members Rebecca Scouller, Caroline Luke-Evered and Rosemary Hollow were the first to dip their toes in the water of the heritage-listed pool this season.
In January, the pool will celebrate its 90th anniversary.
Caroline Luke-Evered did a quick half lap to mark the start of her 30th season in the pool at Manuka, which can often see more than 1200 people through the turnstiles on a hot summer’s day.
“Every time I walk in here, I feel like I’m home,” she tells Region Media. “It has a peaceful feel and it feels like you’re stepping back in time. I love the art deco tiles and paintwork and the classic architecture, but more so, the people here are always so welcoming.”
Caroline has kept up her laps at a heated indoor pool during winter, but says swimming at Manuka is like meditation.
“I love the feel of the water and the flow through the water, and having an outdoor pool just makes it more scenic. I find it’s like a form of meditation when you’re in sync with your breathing and counting the laps.
“Swimming for me is the weightlessness you feel and it’s a complete form of exercise from your fingers to your toes.”
Following the death earlier this year of one of Manuka’s original ‘coneheads’ – Merv Knowles, and then his wife Beth five days later – Caroline says the lanes at Manuka will feel a little emptier without the pool’s patriarch around stopping for a chat between the occasional lap.
“Merv and Beth were part of the fabric here and in many ways, their death was the end of an era, but their legacy will live on,” Caroline says.
The Friends of Manuka Pool are planning a garden party at the end of January to mark its 90th anniversary.
Over at the Stromlo Leisure Centre, centre manager Tim Wilson said they have been flat out with an online booking system for the new eight-lane, 50-metre lap and competition pool.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of memberships at the pool here in the weeks since it’s been open,” Tim says.
“The interest from families has been great, as well as our regular water polo, triathlon and swim squads coming in. We’re running one-hour sessions at the pool and two-hour sessions at the splash park.”
The same booking arrangement is in place at the other YMCA Leisure Centre pools at Tuggeranong, Gungahlin and Civic.
The Dickson Aquatic Centre will also open on 31 October.