By Nandini Jayakrishna
A plunge at this end. A quick gasp for breath at the other. Splashes, somersaults and handstands. A girl yelling playfully — “Don’t make me laugh, I’ll drown!”
The scene was a familiar one on a recent afternoon at Cranston’s outdoor public pool, Budlong – an 85-by-260-foot magnet for young and old swimmers, water lovers and sunbathers, for moms, dads and children.
As gas prices dwindle slowly, somewhat reluctantly, many Ocean State dwellers are settling for indoor and outdoor swimming pools — a more convenient and cheaper source of simple watery fun, exercise and therapy.
Daily admission to some public pools is free, while others cost less than movie tickets, with rates lower for residents than nonresidents of the host community.
“This is one of the few things you get for your tax dollar,” Cranston resident Joe P. Holubeck said of the Budlong Pool, which is open to anyone willing to pay the minimal fees.
“I hope it’s something that’s always available,” he said.
Holubeck, 55, has been a Budlong patron for 10 years, visiting it almost every day for a 30-minute workout that consists of several laps along the pool’s width.
He is content within its confines, within its million gallons; he hardly ever craves the ocean.
“You have to drive and you have to park,” he said of a beach trip. “It’s hard to know how far you’re swimming and for how long. You can’t keep track of what you’re doing.”
Claudia M. Davenport, of Cranston, likes to keep track of what’s going on, too. As much as she loves the beach, with four little children — Mason, 7, Kyra, 6, Matilda, 3, and Jackson, 1 — Davenport feels most comfortable at Budlong, where several lifeguards keep tabs on the swimmers.
The children can jump, swim and play as much as they want without worrying her too much, she said last week.
“It’s certainly a good way to wear the kids out … to reconnect with other parents and friends,” she said, as she caught Jackson and Matilda, who took turns jumping into the pool, over and over again.
Davenport said she doesn’t want her children to fear the water; she wants them to grow up loving it.
“I would like them to be comfortable, so when they go into the ocean they feel confident,” she said. “[Swimming] is certainly a skill learned in life, like reading or driving a car.”
Denise L. Cipolla, co-director of Budlong Pool, said nearly 100 people on average visit it daily — also taking advantage of the picnic tables and basketball courts near it — since Budlong opened for the season at the end of June.
For Claire M. Sanford and her three boys, a swim at Bud-long is a daily ritual.
Tyler, 11, Nicholas, 8, and Joshua, 2 — ardent fans of Michael Phelps, the multiple gold medal-winning U.S. Olympian swimmer — are already dreading this Friday, the day Budlong will close for the season.
But for those who like to swim year-round, there are easy alternatives — indoor municipal and club pools — that usually have time slots reserved for children, adults and seniors.
The North Providence Pool & Fitness Center, housed in the same Mineral Spring Avenue building as the Mayor Salvatore Mancini Union Free Library, and the McDermott Pool in Warwick are just two of several indoor pools in the state.
One afternoon last week, before it closed for two weeks of maintenance, the North Providence pool had fewer patrons than usual.
On the shallow end, 3-year old Thomas and his mother, Stephanie Faioli, had a large portion to themselves. Dressed in tiny red swimming trunks and a mini life jacket, Thomas, waded through the water toward his mother with the confident smile of an accomplished swimmer.
“He loves coming to this pool,” Faioli said as Thomas gave her a tight hug and refused to let go. “He meets a lot of girls.”
Warwick’s McDermott Pool, which is divided into two 42-by-83- foot sections, seemed to be popular with a different set of people last week.
Fast attaining fame for being the pool in which North Kingstown’s Olympic entrant Elizabeth Beisel swims with her team, the Attleboro Blue Fish Swim Club, McDermott attracts both serious swimmers looking to practice or exercise and seniors who come for relaxation and therapeutic purposes.
Elliott F. Davis, 69, comes to McDermott to walk in water.
Ever since he injured the outside tendon of his left foot nearly 15 years ago, he has been forced to walk with a small brace.
Last year he started coming to the pool five or six times every week. His routine is set: one hour of walking backwards and sideways in the shallow part of the pool, stretching and pushing the foot in a way that is impossible on land. It is a sad irony for Davis, who loves walking so much that whenever he visited his wife’s family in Ecuador he made it a point to walk from one end of the city to the other.
Davis said he hopes his pool walks will somehow help heal his limp one day. He doesn’t know if they will but he has faith. If nothing else, the pool is a source of immense mental relief for him.
Just a few feet away from Davis on the other side of the divider separating the deep lanes from the shallow pool, James R. Nicastro, 55, hardly has time to talk as he does freestyle laps, one after another.
The North Kingstown resident, who finds McDermott less crowded than the open pool at the University of Rhode Island, prefers swimming two or three times a week to other exercises. “It seems more natural than running,” he said.
Nicastro’s philosophy is definitely one to live by: “Three- fourths of the earth is covered by water. Sometime along the line you’ll run into it, so everybody should swim.”
It’s really just as simple as that.
McKayla Richardson, 7, of Cranston, above, shields herself from the sun’s rays at the Budlong Pool. Jackson Davenport, also of Cranston, right, leaps into the arms of his mother, Claudia. The Providence Journal / Bob Thayer
Matilda Davenport, 3, of Cranston, gets a refreshing swirl in the city’s Budlong Pool by her mother, Claudia, on a recent hot afternoon. The Providence Journal / Bob Thayer
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Originally published by Nandini Jayakrishna, Journal Staff Writer.
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