Swimming in Sustainability in Loretto

October 1, 2016, Department, by Tom Doherty, LEED Green Associate

Loretto Pool project partners from left to right: Tom Doherty, TDEC; Gerald Parish, TDEC; Commissioner Robert J. Martineau Jr.; and Representative Barry Doss.Situated five miles from the Alabama border in southern-middle Tennessee is the quaint city of Loretto. With a population of approximately 1,800, the town is usually quiet, but recently there’s been a big splash with the opening of a new state-of-the-art recreation space.

Through a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of Sustainable Practices (TDEC), Division of Recreation Educational Services, and Croy Engineering, Loretto celebrated the opening of its new pool August 27, 2016. 

Getting Started

With an aged, 25-year-old pool hampered with failing pumps and severe leaking, the city had no option other than to close the former pool. After years without any aquatic recreation opportunity, the city was eager to develop a new facility. As mentioned by City Administrator Keith Smith, “We conducted a survey to gauge the community’s interests in our parks and recreation programs. Building a new pool was what the community requested and a splash pad was second choice. We wanted to build a sustainable pool and were able accomplish this goal by working with this incredible group of stakeholders.” 

The citizens of Loretto were actively involved as city leaders kept them engaged and informed throughout the process. When city leaders began discussion of closing the pool following the receipt of cost estimates for pool repair, citizens turned to social media through the “Save the Loretto City Pool” Facebook page. Because of this page, the public was able to stay informed of city council meetings and project updates regarding the future of their new pool. Citizen involvement further persuaded the city to explore options related to possible grants and funding for the development. By involving stakeholders in the process, Loretto created a unified effort for discovering the best solution. 

That solution presented itself in 2014 as the city applied for a Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant, an opportunity offered through the Division of Recreation Educational Services. The program provides funding to eligible entities to purchase lands for parks, natural areas, greenways and recreation facilities. According to Director of Recreation Educational Services, Gerald Parish, “The application noted innovative ideas of using both recyclable material and energy efficient features.” 

Parish continued: “In meeting with Mayor Jesse Turner, his staff, the project engineer Andy Somers of Croy Engineering and Representative Barry Doss, it was determined to move forward with this project. With a $250,000 Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant and a $273,100 Office of Sustainable Practices’ grant, plus the local match of $525,000, the total project was over $1 million.” Parish concluded by saying, “We have now developed a model in swimming pool development for the state of Tennessee in using recyclable products and energy-efficient equipment to help preserve our environment.” 

Building and Enjoying Loretto City Pool

Environmentally friendly features such as a recycled glass bead filter system, a pool deck composed of 40 percent fly-ash — a byproduct of coal combustion — and a retractable pool cover to help maintain ideal aquatic temperatures are helping put this small town on the map for sustainability. The facility includes pervious pavement, bioswales, skylights and LED lighting to illuminate interior areas, and is built from the same fly-ash concrete. All sustainability features are highlighted in permanent signage around the property. Additionally, all pool facilities, parking, restrooms and sidewalk areas are Americans with Disability Act-accessible. 

The effort has not gone unnoticed. The project has helped the city market its innovation and their holistic approach to creating an environment that supports health and wellness, provides a community gathering space and addresses the need for a public facility in the region. Somers, noted, “The pool was not designed as a stand-alone project, but was specifically sited to fit in with the overall park plan. The pool project includes elements that help meet city goals for better handicap accessibility, improved public restroom facilities and a continuous walking path around the park perimeter. All while taking advantage of sustainability features wherever possible.”

In response to the collaborative efforts of the pool development, Mayor Turner said, “As mayor of a small town, I always want our projects to reflect the best of our community. It can be a struggle to find the resources to make that project come true. This is why I am so proud of our new community pool project. Not only does it provide a great source of recreation for everyone in our town, it is also a beautiful structure — one that will make Loretto proud for many years to come.”

Since the opening of the pool, “Several hundred folks have already visited in the few days we’ve been open,” Turner continued. “We’re booking private parties daily, and we’ve began a water aerobics class and the attendance has been phenomenal. I cannot give enough thanks to the project partners.”

The Loretto City Pool will be open through October, weather permitting. So, if you find yourself in southern-middle Tennessee, be sure to pack a bathing suit. 


Tom Doherty,LEED Green Associate, is an Environmental Specialist for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of Sustainable Practices.