Swimming pool in Bluffton SC closes for roof repairs

For Litzy Mogavero, a Lady’s Island resident who drove to a Bluffton pool several times a week for her son’s swim lessons, it was “devastating” hearing about its closure.

The one-on-one lessons at the pool at 55 Pritchard St. were helping her 3-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism last May, “feel like a happier little boy,” she said.

“This is the only thing that keeps him happy,” Mogavero said. “There was no bad behavior within those weeks… This does change him.”

In a Feb. 23 press release, Beaufort County officials said they were notified of potential structural damage during an assessment of the Pritchard Street building as part of a master plan to update the county’s pools. Corrosion on the pool’s roof made it a risk during high winds or heavy rainfall.

“He’s been missing swim … He’s constantly telling us, ‘swim, swim,'” Mogavero said. “I have to tell him, ‘Buddy, I don’t think it’s going to be open any time soon.'”

And Mogavero isn’t the only one. At least 11 children, from 2 to 15 years old, were participating in the swim lessons from the Lowcountry Autism Foundation, a program that gives families from Charleston to Hilton Head free resources for children with autism. Now, the organizer of the foundation’s swim program, Sophia Towns is scrambling to find a solution.

“It was frustrating because these kids were making progress,” Townes said. “All of them were able to go underwater. That is a huge milestone.”

‘I cannot put it into words’

The swim program, Townes said, is “vital” to the autism community because it is so common for people with autism to “be drawn to the water.” The lessons focus on basic swimming skills, water safety and survival skills for children and or teenagers with autism who may fall into the water.

“Autism moms and dads are on high alert 24/7,” Townes said. “It is like an air traffic controller. I cannot put it into words.”

Children with autism are at least 160 times more likely to die from drowning than other children, according to research from Columbia University. This statistic is what drove Townes, a mother of three boys in Beaufort County, two with autism, to get involved with the foundation and start swim lessons for kids in the area.

The children who were in the middle of their eight-week swim course, have been told to wait while Towns finds a solution. There is a waiting list for families wanting to begin their lessons as well, Townes said. She wants to keep the lessons in Bluffton to accommodate the families and the special education instructor.

“Ideally, I would love it if … neighborhoods with heated, indoor pools would consider letting us use their pool for a couple of hours in the evenings three days a week,” Townes said. “That would be amazing, but I know ever since COVID happened, it’s only available to members.”

County spokesperson Chris Ophardt did not have an update Sunday on the plans for the pool. The county is exploring saltwater options for the pool and climate control to offset corrosion in the future, the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette previously reported.

Swimming in Beaufort County

Battery Creek (indoor): Extra hours have been added to the pool at 1 Blue Dolphin Drive, Beaufort. The pool is open Monday through Friday from 8 am until noon. It reopens at 1 pm and closes at 7 pm The pool is open from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm on Saturdays.

Youmans Drive (indoor): The pool at 35 Youmans Drive on Lady’s Island, is operating under regular hours. It is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 am until noon. The pool reopens at 1 pm until 7 pm The pool will close Monday until March 31 and again May 9-May 19 for elementary school swim lessons.

Charles Lind Brown: The outdoor pool at 1710 Greene St., Beaufort, is closed for the season. No reopening date was immediately available online.

Sofia Sanchez is a breaking news reporter at The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette. She reports on crime and developing stories in Beaufort and its surrounding areas. Sofia is a Cuban-American reporter from Florida and graduated from Florida International University in 2020.

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