Roeland Park getting closer to answers about use of old pool site as caves are cleared

The opening to one of the old cave entrances is exposed.
The opening to one of the old cave entrances is exposed.

Roeland Park may soon get some answers about the viability of the caves at the old city swimming pool site for a redevelopment project.

Engineers Tuesday morning had nearly cleared an entrance to one of the first openings. When the swimming pool was no longer used, the cave openings were filled in to block entrance. In order to determine if they can be used again, the fill has to be cleared from the entrance.

Technically, the rooms inside the limestone are mines. Before it was the city swimming pool, the site was a limestone quarry and limestone was removed, leaving the open areas with the limestone pillars. The largest area, the one being opened today, also housed locker rooms and showers for the pool at one point.

Before the digging could start, the area had to be cleared of the decades of trees and brush that had grown over the site. The fill was pushed up several feet to cover the entrances.

The second phase of the project involves a visual inspection of the inside of the caves to make a first pass determination if they could be used for a development project. If that passes, a third phase would test for structural soundness, including the need for shoring up the structures.

The entrance pad to the swimming pool and lighting that surrounded the pool is now visible with the overgrowth removed.

When they enter, engineers will use air quality equipment to test for any gases in the interior. The entire old pool area has been fenced off and marked with no trespassing signs. Roeland Park Public Works Director Jose Leon emphasized that the caves could be very dangerous at this point.

Mayor Joel Marquardt, an architect by trade, has sketched an innovative potential redevelopment idea for the site. The work is being paid for with TIF funds that are due to expire soon.

Another cave entrance is barely visible above the fill.
Another cave entrance is barely visible above the fill.
The slab that was part of the pool deck is visible on one side, but the pool is covered over.
The slab that was part of the pool deck is visible on one side, but the pool is covered over.
Several feet of fill had to be removed after the brush was cleared.
Several feet of fill had to be removed after the brush was cleared.
The area has now been cleared of the overgrowth that blocked the view.
The area has now been cleared of the overgrowth that blocked the view.
A historical picture of the Roeland Park pool on the caves site.
A historical picture of the Roeland Park pool on the caves site.