Hell hath no fury like a vintage aqua-Zumba class member scorned?

Maybe that’s overstating things a little, but there’s no doubt the news that Monadnock Community Hospital’s Bond Wellness Center won’t be reopening for public gym/spa/swimming memberships has raised the ire of some residents of the eastern Monadnock Region, many of them seniors.

The well-equipped fitness and aquatics facility has been closed to the public since the COVID pandemic took hold in March of 2020. The decision at the time made perfect sense, as most public gathering places, and most businesses as well, were required to shut down under the state’s emergency order. But now, as more entities are reopening and social distancing restrictions are easing in many arenas, members want to resume their routines.

The hospital, however, is not like most businesses and other organizations. It’s still — rightly — required by the CDC to maintain social distancing and other health and safety precautions. While vaccinations have curtailed cases and deaths due to the novel coronavirus in this region, the arrival of virus variants is reason for continued concern.

That means the wellness center’s capacity continues to be limited, and may well be for months, or longer. Add to that the growing need for that space for rehabilitation and physical therapy patients, and the hospital’s directors concluded it doesn’t make sense to reopen the facility to the 1,600 or so members who used it previously.

Bond Wellness members received a half month’s credit when the center closed and, presumably, have not been charged since. But of course, it’s not about the money. (Well, it probably is to a degree — while 1,600 month-to-month memberships is undoubtedly a pretty big hit to the budget, we’d guess the increased PT and rehab sessions might well offset that loss.)

It’s about the access to a very fine facility.

The wellness center debuted in 2000 and has been updated regularly. The hospital’s website lists its features as including more than 60 exercise machines, including treadmills, arc trainers, elliptical trainers, rowers, bikes and steppers, plus a circuit of resistance training machines for building strength. Members can access a sauna, steam rooms, showers and lockers — even schedule a massage.

Then there are the pools. Much of the chatter of discord over the closing has had to do with losing access to the center’s two pools, and classes. The larger one is kept at 84 degrees, and includes jets to offer resistance to swimmers on their own. Add to that a 94-degree therapy pool and it’s easy to see why members would bristle at losing out. All that doesn’t even get into the many classes, training and wellness opportunities offered by the staff.

In all, it’s a serious blow for many residents who’ve been without those services and facilities for 15 months, while being cooped up and isolated for much of that time.

In announcing the permanent closure in a letter on July 1, the hospital trustees made clear it was a difficult choice. But the letter also noted there are other options for members in the area. Depending on what form of fitness they’re seeking, community members can find exercise and training options in town. But for the scope of the Bond Wellness Center’s amenities, they’d have to drive at least as far as Keene or Milford. Many seniors aren’t looking for a half-hour trip each way every time they want a swim or to get on a treadmill.

While the situation is unfortunate, it does seem to present a degree of pent-up demand — some 1,600 strong — to someone enterprising in the community that bills itself as “A good town to live in.”

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