Diving Back In? Town List Conditions for Return of Pool Tradition

Talks including DPW and Rec Department could lead way back for Underwood board.

After nearly a week of increasing public fall out from a decision to remove the diving board and halt diving at Belmont's century old , talks are underway between town departments on the possible return of one of the town's long-standing recreational traditions.

Belmont's Health Department Director Stefan Russakow held discussions with Department of Public Works Director Peter Castinino and the town's Recreation Department as of Wednesday, June 27, to begin acting on determining the feasibility of creating a "safer" Underwood Pool that could allow for the return of diving.

"I have begun those discussions and that's where we stand," Russakow told Belmont Patch Wednesday, June 27.

Russakow's department determined at its annual inspection earlier in the month that the pool was not safe for diving in its current condition and issued the ban. 

The intra-municipal talks come after a week of a growing number of residents questioning the decision in increasingly strident terms. has nearly 900 fans after it was created on Saturday, June 23. 

In addition, the news of the diving ban has garnered Greater Boston media attention from WRKO 680 am  and television station Fox 25.

On June 17, the , the oldest outdoor municipal swimming pool in the United States. 

Russakow said that there are three issues that need to be resolved "before I can become more comfortable" issuing a waiver for a diving return:

• Maintaining a consistent water level in the pool throughout the season,

• Creating a "diving zone" – a floating roped-off area – in which diving will be permitted, and 

• The revamping and review of safety rules for diving from the center island to be conducted by the Recreation Department and enforced by the pool's lifeguards.

Russakow said the major issue facing his department is the pool's fluctuating depth level since the pool's deepest point under the board lies in a narrow trench. He said that the pool's level is known to fall by one foot a day which reduces the safety margin for divers who venture off to the side of the board or off the center island. 

According to Russakow, the first two issues are under the purview of the DPW with "engineering type" solutions – adding water to the "pond" and designing a safe floating barrier – while the third involving rules review is within his department's responsibility.

A call to Castinino on the likelihood of the DPW achieving those goals has not been returned at of noon Thursday.

Russakow said that even if the three issues are resolved, the decision to return the board will be done with safety in mind.

"I don't want to approve something that could lead to a tragedy," said Russakow.

"I don't want to say to the parents of a young person who becomes a quadriplegic in a diving accident, 'I'm sorry we didn't do all we could to prevent this from happening." 

Russakow said an answer to whether the board and diving will resume is unlikely until sometime after Castinino speaks with the Board of Selectmen concerning the pool's future at the board's next meeting on Monday, July 2. 


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