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Chicopee swimming pools, closed since 2015 due to hazardous materials, being demolished

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The former bathhouses will remain, Strempka said.

The city discovered the pools at Szot, Fairview and Ash parks were contaminated with PBCs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, after it hired an engineering firm to examine their condition. The study prompted the closing of the three pools in 2015.

Some of the soil that was contaminated will be encapsulated on site, which is allowed by state and federal environmental standards. PCBs are not water-soluble and not considered harmful once contained, Mayor John L. Vieau said.

The Francis X. Desmarias Pool at Ash Park was rebuilt at a cost of $1.8 million after the city received a $400,000 state Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant. It reopened in 2017. The other two pools have been fenced off for years.

The plan now is to turn the area where the Fairview pool sits into a larger, more modern splash park. The current one, which was built around 2000, will remain for younger children, Strepka said.

At the same time, the parks and recreation department is applying for a National Parks Land and Water Conservation grant for up to $5 million to study and revamp the entire park. If awarded, the grant would fund an enhanced playground, add a rope climb and other features, improve parking, enhance the area where Camp Opie is located, improve the sports field, and improve parking, sidewalks and crosswalks, Strepka said.

A social studies class at St. Joan School did a study of Fairview Park and officials plan to look at their ideas as part of the improvements to be made, Vieau said.

At Szot Park, the property will be leveled and essentially left as “a blank slate” for future improvements, Strempka said.

“We are planning to do a master plan for Szot,” Strepka said. “We want to modernize the entire park and look at it as a whole.”

The plan will also incorporate changes that will be made to the park when Bemis Pond is removed, Vieau said.

The city is planning to remove the dams that create Bemis Pond and restore Abbey Brook to its original state. The move will eliminate a safety hazard caused by the two dams, which are in poor condition, and improve the water quality of the brook. The area around the brook will be turned into a passive recreation spot with a trail running along the stream, he said.

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