ELMIRA, NY (WENY) -- Elmira City officials are standing their ground, saying the historic Brand Park Memorial Pool will be torn down. However, some community members are still fighting to try to save it, almost two decades since it was last used. 

A Committee to Save Brand Park Pool has started a petition asking the city to apply for a New York state grant to help build and restore pools in under-served areas.

Jim Hassell, the founder of the committee said the pool is a vital resource for Elmira. With the grant, he said it will have many benefits for the area like paying for swimming lessons for kids. He added it will be a way to promote a sense of community and tourism.

"It will be a boon for everybody in this area because people will come from all over Elmira and as far as I’m concerned, they could come from all over the county... I think it’d be even better. The more people we can reach particularly by promoting diversity and whatnot in our community, it is a huge win and a huge community booster for Elmira, particularly for the south side," said Hassell.

He added, "So many people have voiced a love for that pool and an interest in retaining it, particularly because of the value it has for our children and our sense of community. It is a wonderful structure and opportunity that we have here."

The $150M NY SWIMS capital grant program is a way to expand access to safe swimming opportunities for New Yorkers, address equity gaps, and provide resources for communities facing extreme heat.

The first Brand Park Pool was built in 1926 but was destroyed by a flood in 1946. The pool was rebuilt in 1949 and was dedicated to WWI and WWII veterans. It was enjoyed by the community until the flood of 1972, after which it began to see a steady decline in attendance. The last year Brand Park Memorial Pool was open was in 2005, and has sat unused and neglected ever since. 

Other pools in the Elmira area that offer swimming lessons include the West Elmira pool which is owned by the Town of Elmira, and the Harris Hill pool, which is owned by Chemung County. The YWCA of Elmira and the Twin Tiers has a pool facility, but according to the organization, the pool is closed indefinitely. A Facebook post indicates the pool has been closed at least since 2021.

The NY SWIMS program offers grants between $50,000 and $10 million. It can be used for things like major renovations, improvements, and/or modernization or rehabilitation. Applicants who receive the grant would be required to provide a 20% matching contribution towards the overall project cost.

Hassell said the city should apply for the grant because "we have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

In a March 2024 interview with Elmira Mayor Dan Mandell, he said a study was done in 2010 to see if the pool could be restored at the time. He said when the study was completed, it would've cost over a million dollars to restore and if it wasn't fixed soon, it would be at a point of almost no return.

According to Elmira City Manager Michael Collins on July 8th, demolition is still pending state approval and he said Brand Park Memorial Pool will be demolished. Collins said a splash pad will eventually be put in and city officials will figure out a way in the future to memorialize the pool.

To learn more about the petition to 'Save Brand Park Pool', you can contact Jim Hassell on Facebook.

The first application period for the NY SWIMS capital grant opened on June 13th and applications must be submitted by July 12th. Grant recipients will be announced on August 28th or later. The website cites 'applications will be evaluated on characteristics of projects' need, impact, and viability.'

It also mentioned NY SWIMS monies can be used to support ancillary projects like splash pads, concession stands, picnic areas, and playgrounds. The funding for those costs would be limited to 10% of grants awarded for any individual project.