Today, the California beach town of San Clemente is paradise, but back when I was a kid in the late 1960s the pool of warm, brown water where San Juan Creek meets the ocean had a peculiar, funky smell to it.
The water was only a few feet deep and was blocked from the ocean by a big sand berm. It was pleasantly warm — quite a contrast from the frigid ocean surf. I slipped in and paddled around for a couple minutes, then decided the smell might not be due to algae and other natural, fresh-water life-forms. I headed quickly back to the beach and dove under the waves to clean off.
Looking at the beach via satellite today confirms what I had suspected back then — the water I had slipped into briefly was only a few hundred feet from a wastewater treatment plant.
Since that day long ago, I've never really felt clean when swimming in warm fresh water.
While my family had a pool and we went to the beach on a regular basis, I also had the chance to swim in cold mountain streams, and even icy lakes in the Sierra Nevada mountains on a couple of hiking trips.
I had never heard of the sort of water parks that seem to have once been surprisingly common in this part of the country.
It seems that just about every town had a lake, either commercial or public, where hundreds of people went swimming together.
And it looks like most of them have disappeared:
Dover Lake Water Park in Sagamore Hills closed in 2006 and became part of Brandywine-Boston Mills Ski Resort.
The two-acre pool at Fell Lake just outside of Northfield Village was closed for several years before being sold to Lawrence School, which opened there in 2007.
Lake Plata on the Twinsburg/Macedonia border once attracted hundreds of swimmers until it was sold in 1980. Today, the property is a residential subdivision.
There were two water parks in Ravenna. One was Holiday Sands on Route 14 just south of town. It's now owned by the Loyal Order of Moose.
Pine Lake, on the south side of Ravenna, is overgrown and has gone unsold for many years.
Duncanside Park was just south of Kent in Brimfield and featured a five-acre lake off of Howe Road west of Route 43.
And who hasn’t heard of Geauga Lake, which had a history dating back to the 1800s. It closed in 2007. It’s next-door neighbor, Sea World of Ohio, lasted from 1970 to 2004.
Wildwater Kingdom, built on the former Sea World site in 2005, closed in 2016 and the property where so many enjoyed their summers swimming has been silent ever since.
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that just about every township in this part of the country had one or even two commercial lakes that attracted hundreds of swimmers on hot summer days, such as those we've experienced in early July.
Today, most people have to drive a good distance to find somewhere to swim from a beach.
While there are recreation center pools and some isolated, private campgrounds with rather small swimming areas, several large county and state parks have beaches.
One of the biggest around is West Branch State Park. I recently found a newspaper account from 1968 that reported 20,000 people were at the lake one weekend.
Thousands trek up to the beaches on Lake Erie, but Summit Metro Parks offers lake swimming at Munroe Falls Metro Park, and there is also swimming at Portage Lakes and Punderson state parks.
At opposite ends of the experience spectrum, Pioneer Waterland in Chardon and Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in northern Portage County have both been around since the 1970s and are still in business.
Even so, it seems to me that there were many more places to go swimming in years past.
I would be interested in hearing about any I may have missed.
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or email@example.com