Vernell Kimbrough, a resident of the Hearthstone neighborhood in Stone Mountain, said he thought his community was never going to be able to use its pool again after teenagers vandalized it and burned down the pool house.
Several weeks ago, Kimbrough said more than 20 students “playing hooky” from the DeKalb Alternative School, a high school on Memorial Drive, were seen around the pool area.
“I guess they came down here because this is a park area where truants would hang out,” Kimbrough said. “They’ve charged three with vandalism but the arsonists haven’t been found yet.”
Kimbrough stood by the pool on a recent sunny morning watching workers squeegee the remaining gunk from the shallow end of the pool. A week earlier, representatives from Tidy Cats cat litter identified the Hearthstone pool to be part of its “PU Patrol” cleanup.
“We’re going to seven places in the United States—Atlanta is our fourth—and we’re listening to news coverage and looking around the community for things that ‘stink’ and fixing them,” said Tidy Cats spokeswoman Lindsay Harrington.
Harrington said the company hired local contractors to clean everything from the pool and remove all of the debris in the area, including the charred remnants of the pool house. One of the workers standing nearby said it took several dump trucks to remove all of the debris and “they had thrown almost everything in the pool,” including furniture.
Residents of Hearthstone aren’t the only ones who use the pool; Kimbrough said since it is one of the only private pools in the area, community members, churches and local Boy Scout troops use it.
“Most of the kids who came down here after the vandalism happened were devastated. They were crying—my son was crying, and I was crying. This is where we spend our summers and it gives the kids another option instead of hanging out in the street,” Kimbrough said.
In addition to the work Tidy Cats is doing, a new pool house needed to be built and electrical rewiring needed to be done, which Kimbrough said would be paid for by the neighborhood. The community is holding a fundraiser May 19 at Chick-fil-A on Memorial Drive 4-8 p.m. to help raise funds.
Ron Vaughn, who lives in the Abingdon neighborhood next to Hearthstone, said the local Boy Scout troop he leads uses the pool every summer, in addition to his family.
“We had a pool over in my subdivision but it succumbed to the same fate that this one succumbed to. It was a year or so after I moved in and unfortunately the community wasn’t tight enough to rebound from it,” Vaughn said. He said 14 years ago vandals burned his neighborhood pool house down.
Vaughn hopes the repairs being made on the Hearthstone pool will have a positive effect on the community and also influence his neighborhood to revitalize its pool area.
Resident Emily Grossman said the pool is important because it is a place where countless children learned to swim, in some cases becoming star athletes who swam in high school.
“The creek has also offered the same opportunities—little kids who played in the creek have gone on to get graduate degrees in stream maintenance and biology just because it stirred up a curiosity,” Grossman said.
Each year, Kimbrough said, the neighborhood deals with vandalism in the pool area and last year they were forced to repaint it. The pool is surrounded by a barbed wire fence and Kimbrough said the neighborhood can’t pay for any additional security.
“I’m not happy because the people who committed the arson haven’t been found yet. I guess the police are doing the best they can on that, I’m not faulting them. The responsibility lies on the parents and the school system,” Kimbrough said.