Carbondale will be recognized later this month for its long-term tenacity in trying to open a public pool.
Officials with the Carbondale Park District, which finally opened the long-awaited Super Splash Park earlier this year, will travel to Chicago Sept. 27 to receive the third-annual Blue Mind Award.
The award recognizes individuals or groups that “explore new ways of understanding and evolving our relationship to healthy waterways,” according to the organization’s announcement of the award. Past recipients came from Palo Alto, Calif., and Washington, D.C.
The award springs from the work of Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences who charted the relationship between people and water in his 2014 book “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.” Nichols traveled to Carbondale in 2015 to speak and learn about Carbondale’s efforts.
Carbondale’s Super Splash Park opened in May at the Superblock following years of work and fundraising.
The Carbondale Park District engaged with the public to become involved with the effort financially even as other obstacles — most notably the suspension of a state grant earmarked to pay for the bulk of the project — made the pool’s eventual opening anything but certain.
“It was a grassroots effort,” said Kathy Renfro, executive director of the park district. “I feel like the whole thing has been a long shot, but with everyone’s tenacity, we got there.”
Renfro first met Nichols in 2015, well into the development of the facility, and said that the philosophies about water that he espoused lent credibility to ideas she already had — namely that water can strengthen the bonds of community and help forge greater interpersonal connections.
“Nichols’ book confirmed that a swimming pool has the potential to change how we interact socially,” Renfro said. “We knew that, but we just didn’t have any science to back it up. We just sort of knew about it intuitively.”
Nichols’ announcement of the award to Carbondale notes that the community “overcame the odds, many challenging roadblocks, and opened their first public swimming pool. Theirs is a story of tenacity, equality, access, justice and above all the love of water.”
The award will be presented during an event from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27 at the 3rd Coast Café and Wine Bar in Chicago. Renfro said anyone who would like to attend will be welcome.