Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2000

Senior pushing for pool

Eskridge resident has raised $72,000

July 16, 2000


— Eskridge, Kan., needs a swimming pool.

That's what 81-year-old Maisie DeVore has been saying for 30 years.

"There isn't a thing in this town except a ball program for kids to do, and every kid doesn't like to play ball," DeVore said. "They really need something to do to keep them out of mischief."

DeVore has raised more than $72,000 toward building a public pool by selling scrap metal, homemade jelly and anything else she can think of. Last week, she spent three hours smashing aluminum cans collected from nearby Lake Wabaunsee, then went to work picking ripe choke cherries.

After outliving two husbands and one of her four children, DeVore hopes to see the pool built in her lifetime.

"She's got a long way to go," said Laura Kelly of the Kansas Recreation and Parks Assn., pointing out a recent renovation of Topeka's Gage Park pool cost more than $4 million. "A decent pool will run over $1 million."

During the past three decades, $40 million in federal funds has helped build swimming pools, golf courses, tennis courts and ball fields in Kansas. Now Congress is mulling legislation that would bring Kansas as much as $5 million to $7.5 million annually over 15 years.

Kelly's group is pushing for passage because the measure could help fund such projects as the pool in Eskridge, a town of fewer than 600 people nestled in the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas.

Trouble is, it's part of legislation facing stiff opposition in the Senate.

The sweeping measure, passed by the House in May, would create a $45 billion conservation fund to buy parks and open spaces, pay for wildlife protection and restore environmentally damaged coastal areas. It would require that the 36-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund be completely spent at $900 million a year, tripling money for federal and state land purchases.

There isnt a thing in this town except a ball program for kids to do, and every kid doesnt like to play ball. They really need something to do to keep them out of mischief.Eskridge resident Maisie DeVore

Scheduled for consideration in committee in the coming days, the bill is the most ambitious environmental bill before Congress this year. Opponents worry about a government rush to buy private land. Sponsors, meanwhile, insist the measure would add new protections against the federal government taking land.

"It is a controversial bill," said Sen. Pat Roberts, who sponsored similar legislation he calls much less intrusive and much less expensive.

"There is a school of thought that we should not be designating federal land acquisition as mandatory spending. On the other side, in regard to wildlife protection and management, especially with endangered species, it would allow states to do that on a local basis, and do it far better."

Roberts, R-Kan., is blunt in assessing the measure's chances.

"I don't anticipate it's going to pass this year," he said. "So Maisie may have to wait, in terms of this proposal, on her pool."

In the House, all three Kansas Republicans -- Reps. Jerry Moran, Jim Ryun and Todd Tiahrt -- opposed the bill, while Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., voted for it.

DeVore is used to setbacks. State officials told her last year that an application for matching funds must come from local officials, and DeVore herself filled it out, but miscommunication among the mayor and city council members -- who support the pool -- meant Eskridge missed the deadline.

Thus far, she has raised at least $72,257.82 -- including $2,000 from actress Glenn Close, who starred in made-for-television movies based on the "Sarah, Plain and Tall" books. DeVore won a part as an extra in all three productions, after reading a casting call in the newspaper for weathered farm faces.

She also says a Topeka company that doesn't want to be identified has offered $12,000 more.

DeVore is undeterred.

"As long as my health is good, and it has been, I'll keep on keepin' on," she said.

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