Tom now has the help of another devoted swimming hole fan and computer professional – David Hajdasz of Meriden, CT. David has helped Tom with lots of information and photos over recent years and is now the webmaster for all the New England states.
Tom grew up in the 50’s in Philadelphia, PA where the summers were hot and there were no natural places to swim and few swimming pools (not to mention that the polio scare meant many kids were not allowed to use what swimming places there were!)
As an adult, Tom lived in Oregon for a couple of years where the summers are short and when the rare hot spell arrived we all swam in the rivers and loved it! Returning back east in 1981, Tom began keeping any information he saw or heard about swimming holes hereabouts - visiting them when he could.
In 1994, Tom’s English-major daughter, Sarah, decided that to become more employable she should learn HTML, the language of the relatively new Internet. She decided to build a swimming hole web site. She built the first version and it went on the web in the summer of 1994 with 35 places listed. Tom and Dave have expanded and maintained it since while she has gone on to greater things (thankfully not involving either HTML or the food service industry!)
Some good questions people ask us:
Q: Why are you so interested in a trivial topic like swimming holes?
A: Tom and Dave like to explore, find and enjoy these hidden pools in natural settings. They find a natural swimming hole in a beautiful setting to be very nurturing and soothing to the body and soul.
We get lots of emails from people who agree. The ones we especially like are from parents who took their kids and opened a whole them to a whole new/old world of delight.
People used to know where the local swimming holes were, but today we travel all over and we do not. Young people, especially, have no idea but are discovering them as a result of my site.
Finally, if one wants to have a presence on the over-crowded web, you’d better pick a subject in which there is little commercial interest or you will soon be squeezed out of existence!
Q: Why do all this work when you get no income from it? Why not have advertising or a user fee?
A: Everyone has hobbies and for us this one fits exactly with the lifestyle we want to live. We love to travel, camp, hike and explore. We keep up with technology: the web, photography, GPS, mapping, communications, etc.. Tom is also a freelance writer and get lots of ideas and material from these travels.
Psychologists will tell you that the urge to collect things is a compulsion that eases some inner anxiety. People collect Beanie Babies and bottle caps – we feel good that our compulsion results in lots of fun information that other people can use!
Also, we just like sharing information I have with other people so they can enjoy also. I guess we just like people.
Finally, if we derived income from the site, it would no longer be a hobby but a business, and our position with respect to liability would be much worsened.
Q: Why publicize these special places. Won’t people just crowd them and trash them and cause problems?
A: Next to the safety question (below), this is the one that most disturbs us. We started this web site just for fun - for me and for other people who might also delight in going to natural swimming places. Yes, some people trash them and otherwise abuse them.
Some of our thoughts about this are:
· As we became more personally dedicated to the preservation of all kinds of natural places, we came to understand that it is good to build a constituency for the preservation of such places. A good way to do this is to cause people to enjoy them and thus to see their value. On balance, we truly don't know if the good that might be done by this greater constituency will overcome the damage done by those who abuse these places, but we have hope…...
· Based on what we have seen, we think it might be true that local people who use natural places trash them to a much greater degree than people who come from some distance to enjoy them. Local people typically don't need our site to know where these places are.
· Because we have many hundreds of swimming holes on our site, we also feel that perhaps we are not increasing the usage of any individual locations to the extent that it might be damaging to them. As long as they don’t overcrowd the location, we think more people make a swimming hole MORE fun.
· The vast majority of emails we get are from persons who seem to greatly value these natural places and appreciate the information we provide. (Of course, we don't know about the attitude of others from whom we don't hear.)
We have thought about requiring a password to access the site. The way one would get a password would be to make a small donation to a specified outdoor preservation organization that would then pass on to me a list of those who made a donation for this purpose. This would screen out those who really didn’t care about the outdoors, but would also reduce the constituency-building aspect. Maybe in the future….
Q: Why don’t you write a book?
We think having a web site suits our lifestyle and goals better than writing a book would and we know it reaches way more people. With a book, the author works like fury for months to meet a deadline then the results are “frozen” in type (errors and all) for an indefinite period. The only thing to do next is to write another book; same cycle. With a web site, we can keep an enjoyable pace and “publish” our results both gradually and promptly. We can also link into the many resources on the Web, like mapping, photos and other information about these places. We can incorporate updates in minutes, as when a swimming hole is closed for some reason or a trail washed out.
The safety of persons who learn about swimming holes from my site is our greatest concern. We revise this part of the site often, trying to convey the best safety warning information, most conspicuously placed for the greatest impact. When people tell us about unsafe situations, we either delete that swimming hole or post that information on my web site IMMEDIATLEY, usually the same day or next day. We don’t always know if it is better to delete a place (to keep new people from going to it) or keep it listed (so we can warn people who know about it already.)
· Swim safely – more accidents mean more “no swimming” signs.
· Be a bag person – take out more trash than you bring in.
· Respect private (and public!) property (and the enjoyment of others who share the place with you.)
· Support forests, parks and other land conservation in your state and nationally – clean water comes from protected lands.