Hidden gem Maplewood Pool reopens for 61st season

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal
Maplewood Pool is one of several Summit County swimming facilities to open this Memorial Day weekend. Board president Paul Sanker and the rest of the all-volunteer board have been working to ensure a smooth reopening after a year-long hiatus.
Maplewood Pool board president Paul Sanker on May 27 in Stow. [Phil Masturzo/ Beacon Journal]

Maplewood Park Recreation Club is proud of its history, and likes to keep that history on display. 

A bench near the pool is made of the club's first diving board. The recently uncovered original ceiling beams and original fireplace are now featured in the pool house, which also houses years of photos of old Gators swim teams. And scattered throughout the property are painted or etched initials of former lifeguards. 

"There's probably five times a year when someone middle-aged comes through the front door and they don’t want to swim but they want to come and just look at the pool because they grew up here," pool board president Paul Sanker said. "It means a lot to people." 

Yet many in the community do not know about the pool on Maplepark Road, just off Fishcreek Road in Stow, or that it is open to anyone. 

"It always seems like a surprise to people," Sanker said. 

The pool, which opened on May 29 for its 61st season, was first established in 1959 as a way to entice people to move into the neighborhood with exclusive and free pool access. Early on, the pool house temporarily became a kindergarten until the teacher moved on. 

In the 1970s, membership opened up to any family living in the city, and today memberships are open to anyone, regardless of residence. 

Maplewood Pool has several books filled with old photos and history and board membership have uploaded it all to a Google Drive.

Throughout its entire existence, the pool at 4386 Maplepark Road has always been member-owned with a volunteer board of trustees running the operations. The board typically comprises longtime members of the pool and people who have been drafted in because of particular skill sets. 

"So 100% of the general labor is done by our volunteers and that's what makes us special," said Sanker who was asked to join because he is a former lifeguard and a former pool manager who was certified to operate pools. "100% of membership finances go back into the pool because the board doesn't take a paycheck. So when you get a membership or you buy a snow cone, that's going back into the water and  giving someone a place to swim for the summer." 

Maplewood Pool has been open for 61 years.

Sanker added that the pool is very family-oriented, hosting several kids nights throughout the summer so that parents can enjoy a night out by themselves. Often when young families join, they tend to maintain memberships until their kids have reached the point when coming to the pool is the "cool thing to do," he said. 

"Our goal is to constantly make sure we do everything we can to make sure they don't decide to leave because something wasn't right," Sanker said. "Everyone has their own family reasons, but we've spent a lot of time over the last several years to make sure we do our part to keep people around." 

Recently, that meant switching from an old fashioned cash register to a point of sale digital system to make visits more convenient for members, and fixing a leak in the club house which ultimately uncovered the original fire place. 

A former president's father completed the masonry work to restore the fireplace for free, while Sanker built the new mantle. 

This year, membership revenues along with a third-round PPE loan, allowed Maplewood to make $16,000 in repairs that were caused or exacerbated by the pandemic and the pool's resulting closure. 

"A lot of it is just valves and stuff like that. Nothing attractive, but it's absolutely necessary and the pool is now performing better than ever in the five years I've been here and probably a few years before that too. We've been able to spend time and invest in making sure that everything runs awesome," Sanker said. 

Maplewood Pool's clubhouse is filled with photographs of former Gators swim teams.

Now, after a year-long hiatus, Maplewood is up and running as normal. The pool managed to hire enough lifeguards to keep the pool's regular operational hours and is training some of them to offer swim lessons. The Gators swim team, which has about 115 members, began practice on June 1. 

For hours, rates and more information, visit http://www.maplewoodpool.com/