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. Since then the site has grown to include descriptions of thousands of swimming holes and receives in excess of 2,000,000 page visits per year.
Some good questions people ask us:
Q: Why are you so interested in a trivial topic like swimming holes?
A: I like to explore, find and enjoy these hidden pools in natural settings. I find a natural swimming hole in a beautiful setting to be very nurturing and soothing to the body and soul.
I get lots of emails from people who agree. The ones I 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 this site.
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 me. This website was started 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 my thoughts about this are:
· As I became more personally dedicated to the preservation of all kinds of natural places, I 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, I 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 I have hope…...
· Based on what I've seen, I 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 this website site to know where these places are.
· Because I have many hundreds of swimming holes on the site, I also feel that perhaps I am not increasing the usage of any individual location to the extent that it might be damaging to them. As long as they don’t overcrowd the location, I think more people make a swimming hole MORE fun.
· The vast majority of emails I get are from persons who seem to greatly value these natural places and appreciate the information provided. (Of course, I don't know about the attitude of others from whom I don't hear.)
The safety of persons who learn about swimming holes from my site is my greatest concern. I 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 me about unsafe situations, I either delete that swimming hole or post that information on the web site quickly.
· 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.