Karl Ivester broke his neck diving into shallow water in 1999.
"I am not an advocate for diving boards. I have not dove in any water in 13 years," said the long-time Belmont resident in an email interview.
But when Ivester read on Belmont Patch Saturday, June 23, that the due to safety concerns, he took action.
"It was clear that the pool was to be enjoyed by the children of Belmont and it was clear that a diving board was important to the Underwood," he said.
But rather than make phone calls, sign a petition or go door-to-door to bring out support for the 100-year-old tradition, Ivester started up his computer and created a Facebook page.
Dubbed "Save the Diving Board at the Underwood Pool", the web page has garnered 534 fans (as of noon, Monday, June 25) in less than 48 hours as the page has gone viral in the social media universe.
"I started the page after posting the Patch's article a few friends noted their disappointment," he said.
For Ivester and nearly all the people who have commented on the page, the pool and especially the diving board meant a great deal to them growing up in Belmont.
The child of working parents, "you went to the pool, everyday," Ivester said. And the diving board was "a rite of passage for all of us."
"You did your swimming test to get access to the deep end," said the president of New England Shutter Mills, who admitted failing his first "deep-end test."
"[But] when you were able to pass the test, your first victory celebration was the diving board. Thirty-five years ago for me but remember that victory dive clearly," Ivester said.
What struck Ivester and many residents and pool patrons was in their view the sudden and apparent arbitary nature of the Health Department's decision
Ivester said the department's decision was based less on the facts but the perception of possible injury. Noting that the department has no recorded evidence of a diver being injured impacting the pool's bottom in its history – Ivester's rough calculation estimates five million diving attempts without an injury – he and others found the department's actions to be a stretch.
"So the solution to the safe tradition that thousands of Belmontians have enjoyed for 100 years ... [is] to take down the diving board?" he asked?
And the fans on the Facebook page agree with Ivester.
"No diving at the underwood?!? What are they thinking!?!? What can I do to help Karl?" wrote one irate fan while others have printed the email address and phone number of the Health Department.
Ivester is not surprised by the quick and enthusiastic response to his page.
"I think we are fed up with a few scared adults taking away the freedoms and rituals we enjoyed as kids," he said.
And the movement to return the diving board will possibly reach a larger audience as Ivester will reportedly be on Michele McPhee radio show on WRKO 680 am sometime after noon to be the focus of her "Outrage of the Day" feature.
As for Ivester, he just wants his children to have the same opportunity for fun as he had several years ago.
"I would like nothing more to see my three kids smiles when they take that first victory dive of that board in middle of the Underwood Pool," he said.