KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A group of people in Hamblen County are celebrating state lawmakers' decision to not shut down the public pool at Panther Creek State Park.
Tennessee lawmakers had originally announced last November they had decided to close public pools at 11 different state parks. Regarding the one at Panther Creek State Park, they said the reasoning behind it was the pool's age, a decline in visitors, nearby lake-swimming opportunities, and its proximity to a public splash pad.
That all changed in June after people in the community rallied to keep it open.
"It took everyone by surprise," said Laura McCoy, who lives 2 miles down the road from the pool. "A lot of us got very upset by it."
For many in Hamblen County, the pool means much more than just a place to cool down on a hot summer day.
"There are people who have enjoyed this pool for generations," McCoy mentioned. "And we want to keep it open for generations to come, like my daughter."
So she decided to do something about it.
"I started a Facebook page, started an online petition and we now have close to 2,500 signatures," she said.
McCoy also got in contact with the county mayor and commissioners, who supported her efforts. In June, state leaders decided to reverse their decision and continue funding the pool.
"When I got word that there was an official announcement made by the state that the pool was going to be reopened I actually cried," she confessed. "I was so happy. This pool has served this community for generations and I just could not see any reason why, if there was so much willingness, we could not make the necessary repairs to keep this pool open for years to come."
The community still has some unanswered questions, like when the pool will open up again and who will manage it, but for now, they are celebrating that they get to keep something they said was essential to them.
"We really needed a pool because, there may be places to swim in the lake, but you just do not have the safety and the visibility," McCoy explained. "And especially people who have physical limitations, you do not have things like stairs or handrails where it would be accessible to them as a pool would be. So for all these reasons, the community really needed this pool to stay open.
Local leaders said they expect the pool will reopen by 2024.