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MECA pool still making waves 60 years later

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Generations of Merokeans have flocked to the Merrick Estates Civic Association’s community center on Shore Drive for over half a century to enjoy its private pool, play areas, beach volleyball court and views of the neighboring East Bay. But last winter, the facility almost closed for good.

“MECA was actually faced with a lot of hardships in recent years due to the hurricanes,” said Scott Kohen, the president of the civic association, “[but] a team stepped up to figure out a financial plan to resurrect MECA.”

That plan involved renovating the bathrooms, revamping the pools, stripping and repainting the entire facility, adding turf to the roof deck, installing a beverage center and hiring a new management company to oversee operations, the cost of which, Kohen said, was “substantial.” MECA also joined the Merrick Chamber of Commerce earlier this year to connect with other local businesses and expand beyond “our immediate peninsula,” Kohen said.

As a member of the chamber, MECA has become more involved in the community. It sponsored a booth at Kids Fest in April, held a paint night in conjunction with another local business and recently hosted a chamber networking event on the roof deck overlooking the bay.

That night, “Some [chamber] members had said ‘I’d always heard of [MECA] but I’ve never actually stepped foot inside,’” Kohen said. “They can’t believe the gem that’s there.”

The private pool club has served as a gathering place for local families for the past 60 years, and while members pay dues to enjoy the amenities, MECA has helped residents connect with neighbors that they wouldn’t have met otherwise, Kohen said.

“We have multiple, three-generation [families] now visiting the pool, and that’s something you can’t overlook,” he said. “There’s other town beaches and pools to congregate at, but this is our local hideout.”

In addition to revamping the physical aspects of the club, Kohen rolled out an events calendar for the 2019 season to attract members of all ages. Programming has included movie night, taco night, adults-only night, bingo night and game tournaments. This month, Kohen plans to host a kids’ triathlon.

The familial fun inherent to the club is apparent in its volunteers, too, as many board members have full-time jobs outside of MECA. “It takes a village,” Kohen said, “but when you see everybody smiling around the pool and you feel that vibe of happiness, [it’s] . . . the best.”

Rachel Ginsberg serves on the board of MECA. Her late husband, Eric, was raised in Merrick and grew up swimming in MECA’s pool. After he died in 1999, the membership donated a memorial stone in his honor to be placed in the club’s garden, which Ginsberg still maintains to this day.

The tendering inspired Ginsberg to start her own business, Gardens by Rachel, but she still looks after MECA’s garden, which also got an upgrade during the off season. “This year we took down the gate that separated the garden,” she said. “Now it’s much more a part of MECA.”

Ginsberg said she was proud of MECA’s newfound place in the chamber, and that it would help sustain the club’s reputation for generations to come. “MECA is a gift to our community, and I hope that more people join because we need community,” she said. “We’re lucky we have a new group of young people who are dedicated to keeping this place going.”

MECA is at capacity for this season, Kohen said, but the club will open membership sign-ups for next season at the end of the month. For more information, visit www.mecapool.com.