New swimming pool could honor Snooty the manatee

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It has been talked about for years and on Tuesday, an aquatic facility at Lincoln Park took a step forward as the Manatee County Commission agreed to start the design work.

A draft concept of the aquatics facility at Lincoln Park. Manatee County government

A draft concept of the aquatics facility at Lincoln Park. Manatee County government

With the commission’s approval, county staff will have a company turn a draft concept of the pool into a design, which will allow officials to have more exact construction cost estimates. Officials estimate the project — which could honor the memory of Snooty, the iconic manatee that died at the South Florida Museum over the weekend — could cost about $3 million.

“We are moving forward, very exciting day,” Manatee Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said after the commission gave unanimous approval.

During a Palmetto city commission meeting last week, county officials presented the key design elements, which include two pools — one geared toward competition and one “to accommodate learn to swim, drown prevention and exercise therapy programs,” according to a county document.

“We are looking for a facility that provides both competitive and learn-to-swim activities in an adjacent facility,” said Charlie Hunsicker, the county’s parks and natural resources director.

But the lack of a dive well in the plans surfaced as an issue for Palmetto officials. And adding one at that location might be difficult.

With a rock layer under Lincoln Park, 501 17th St. E., it would cost as much as $800,000 to build the entire pool raised above the rock layer, according to Hunsicker.

“A pool without a diving facility at Palmetto can still meet all of those goals,” he said, adding that there is a diving facility at G.T. Bray Park.

Commissioner Charles Smith, who attended last week’s Palmetto city commission meeting, said the diving well was the only issue in dispute.

“They know this is the only pool they will ever get in that area,” he said.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said the city commission would like to see the best pool and diving facility.

“This is our one opportunity to have a nice pool,” she said. “A pool has been promised for years and years and years. ... Let’s make a decision. Let’s cut to the chase and let’s get this moving.”

While construction of the aquatics facility is still a ways off, Commissioner Priscilla Whisenant Trace suggested “Snooty Memorial Neighborhood Pool” as the name, adding that it could be manatee-themed.

“I like it,” Benac said.