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Buffalo Wyoming

Once Largest Outdoor Pool In The World, Buffalo’s 1 Million Gallon Pool Charged Fees For First Time

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A Buffalo swimming pool that once held the distinction of being the largest free outdoor pool in the world is getting some much needed financial help.

Buffalo officials have decided to charge an admission for the first time in the pool’s almost 100-year history, raising money for needed maintenance and new attractions.

A Civilian Conservation Corp project during the Depression, the giant swimming pool in Buffalo’s city park touted itself for many years as the largest outdoor free pool in the world. At 393 feet by 262 feet, the pool holds more than 1 million gallons of water and is fed by the cold mountain waters of Clear Creek.

The Buffalo pool is no longer the world’s largest. That distinction goes to the pool at the San Alfonso del Mar resort in Chile, which is more than one-half mile long, covers 19 acres and hold 66 million gallons of seawater. However, the Buffalo pool is still definitely one of the largest in the country.

The centerpiece of Buffalo’s Washington Park, the huge swimming pool started out as a swimming hole in the late 1890s, soon after the town itself was founded. It was formally established as the city pool in 1922, becoming a Works Progress Administration project in 1935. 

Historic photos of the town show divers jumping from a platform near log-cabin bathhouses. The boathouses received a big upgrade in the 1980s, when the gravel bottom of the pool was finished with concrete.

While admission has been free since the pool first opened, rising costs and deteriorating infrastructure have caused city leaders to reconsider.

“It was always touted as a free pool,” said Travis Lawrence, who sits on the Buffalo Outdoor Pool Board. 

But last year, city leaders recognized that costs to operate the pool were becoming more than the city could fund.

“We rely on the city to do essential services that they have to provide, where, you know, a pool is a 100% luxury item,” Lawrence said. “So, if you’re sitting in the mayor and council’s shoes, and money’s tight, it might be awfully difficult to justify spending money on a luxury item.”

So the Pool Board, along with the Buffalo City Council, determined a $3 admission fee was fair (with free entrance for kids under 3 and seniors over 65, as well as veterans), and would bring in enough to meet the financial needs to keep the pool afloat. 

That change was made this past summer, and to the delight of city officials, the summer of 2021 was the pool’s biggest year ever. Lawrence said that the first summer of an admission fee resulted in close to $39,000 in revenue for the city.

“We implemented an admission fee and talked the city into doing two things with that admissions fee – (one was that) 50% of what was earned would be reinvested in the pool in the form of capital improvements,” said Lawrence.

The board has already put the money to use, with plans to install a new double slide and offer wireless internet service to users – and hopefully, constructing three cabanas, according to Lawrence.

“Obviously we wish we would have started saving for its future 35, 40 years ago, when the gravel bottom got concreted,” Lawrence noted.

This summer, Lawrence said the pool is scheduled to open on June 10 and remain open through the end of August.

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Buffalo Residents Skeptical About HGTV’s “Home Town Takeover” Project

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Buffalo’s sleepy downtown is a treasure to locals. But a major television network has stirred some debate with its claim that the small town nestled at the foot of the Bighorn mountains needs a “kick start.”

HGTV is spending several weeks in this northeast Wyoming town focusing on three refurbishment projects – a commercial business, a private home and a public space – in an effort to give the small town a boost.

“To save this town, we need to make it, like, a destination,” Jasmine Roth, of the television show “Help! I Wrecked My House” said in the promo video for the Buffalo episode of “Home Town Kickstart Presented By PEOPLE,” titled “A Boost for Buffalo.” 

But reactions among patrons of the town’s signature diner, the Busy Bee Cafe, were mixed as to whether the town needs the help of HGTV and hosts Roth and Ty Pennington, stars of “Extreme Home Makeover.”

“Personally, no,” said Skip Hancock, former mayor and city councilman for the town of Buffalo, when asked if Buffalo needs this type of boost.

“But we’ve got to grow. We got to improve,” he continued. “We’ve got to invite people in, it’s just called business.”

According to Kelly Rivezzi of the Discovery Channel, the parent company for HGTV, the project is intended to revitalize the town’s economy by encouraging people to stay longer in the area by making it more inviting to visitors.

“Buffalo was selected from the thousands of submissions HGTV originally received for the hit series ‘Home Town Takeover,’” she told Cowboy State Daily.

One of the projects in Buffalo will involve the re-opening of the community’s only movie theater, which has been closed for the last two years.

Jerry Tift, who has lived in Buffalo for over 70 years and was one of Hancock’s fellow coffee-drinkers at the Busy Bee Saturday morning, felt that the producer’s focus on private businesses and private homes isn’t much help to the town at large.

“The only thing I think Buffalo could use some help on is a swimming pool,” he said. “I don’t think they should be giving (help) to private business.”

The idea that Buffalo needs help being “more inviting to visitors,” as the promo suggests, is in contradiction to what Robert Herzog, who joined Hancock and Tift on Saturday morning, has observed.

“We used to have three grocery stores downtown,” said Herzog. “And all we’ve got now is antique shops.”

Penny Duvall, a waitress at the Busy Bee Cafe — the breakfast haunt of author Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire — watched the trailer for the HGTV show. She agreed with the show’s producers that Buffalo’s economy could use a boost.

“They don’t expand,” she said of the small town. “You know, they stay the same size. So maybe more people coming into town, maybe it’d be a good thing? I mean, probably for revenue and for businesses, too – they’ve got to eat, right?” 

Duvall has only been in town for ten years, literally arriving on a bus in the middle of the night to meet her husband here, who had moved to Buffalo a few months earlier to set up their home. 

But her experience in Buffalo has been positive and she told Cowboy State Daily the small town feel is what keeps the town charming.

“You can make it here,” Duvall said. 

Buffalo is one of six towns around the country chosen by HGTV for this limited series. Other towns which will be in the spotlight are Winslow, Arizona; Cornwall, New York; LaGrange, Kentucky; Thomaston, Georgia; and Minden, Louisiana. 

The episode featuring Buffalo will air on HGTV at 8 p.m. April 24.

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Buffalo To Be Featured On HGTV Show

in News/wyoming economy

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Buffalo is in the spotlight for a new HGTV show that intends to give parts of the town a makeover.

But some residents fear the attention might backfire for the community with a population of 4,593 nestled at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming, best known for its annual “Longmire Days” festival.

The “Home Town Kickstart Presented by PEOPLE” program has three goals for each community it visits, according to HGTV. 

First, refresh the home of a local hero; second, give a small business a beautiful upgrade; and third, reinvigorate a public space.

“I think it is a great thing for Buffalo and the people and small businesses,” said Krista Palmer, who has lived in Buffalo her entire life. “It will let people know how special a place Buffalo really is.”

Staff at Buffalo City Hall agree, according to City Clerk/Treasurer Julie Silbernagel.

“It all started with someone nominating Buffalo,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “I  have no idea who nominated us, but production company representatives visited Buffalo this summer and determined that our town would be a good fit for the show.”

Buffalo is one of six communities selected from thousands of submissions to HGTV to receive this “kickstart.” Others selected for the show were Cornwall, New York, Winslow, Arizona, LaGrange, Kentucky, Thomaston, Georgia, and Minden, Louisiana.

According to the network, each communities will benefit from the expertise of the popular network stars used to lead the makeovers and added visibility from an appearance the popular magazine “People.”

“We are thrilled to highlight stories about everyday heroes working towards positive change in their communities,” commented Dan Wakeford, People magazine’s editor-in-chief.

But not everyone is excited about the attention. Comments on Sheridan Media’s story about the selection revealed concern by some residents.

“This a terribly sad thing,” said one commenter, who said he grew up in western Wyoming and watched his community be destroyed by development and media exposure. “Rural gentrification rips apart long standing communities and upends the values that make small towns special.”

On the other hand, some residents see this as an opportunity to breathe life into what is primarily a tourist town.

“Buffalo needs something that caters more to its locals,” said Penny Corbett, who has lived in Buffalo her entire life. “I, for one, am someone who shops out of town, shops on Amazon, because I don’t want to buy my kids and grandkids birthday presents at Family Dollar, nor do I want to buy a $55 blouse for my 5-year-old granddaughter at a downtown store.”

Corbett pointed out that since Shopko closed down a few years ago, the town doesn’t have any sort of department store that provides essentials for residents.

“When I was growing up, we had The Cobbler (shoe store),” she explained. “We had the New York Store and the Pants and Tops Shop. We had places in town where you could go and get what you needed.”

But because of the town’s small size, Corbett said residents pay more for services and goods in Buffalo than they might in nearby Sheridan (with more than three times Buffalo’s population), even though both towns are on interstate highways. 

“One of the things that I’ve learned about Buffalo as an adult is that we pay higher shipping rates,” she said. “Nobody has an explanation for it. Two major interstates go through here — the gas truck has to drive right by Buffalo to get Sheridan, and yet (Sheridan’s) gas prices are lower than ours. Makes no sense.”

So from Corbett’s perspective, a little “revitalization” might go a long way towards giving the town a much-needed economic boost. 

“To have somebody come in here, like HGTV, to help revitalize a downtown business and help maybe a couple of other stores that are trying to cater more towards locals, with a flair to attract tourists as well, it could show Buffalo in a different light.”

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