Wichita city council votes to close all but three public pools
Update: The Wichita City Council has voted to close all but three public pools. As a part of the approved aquatics plan, the pools in College Hill, Aley and Harvest parks will remain open and be remodeled.
The pools at Boston, Edgemoor, Evergreen, Linwood, McAdams, and Orchard parks will be permanently removed and turned into splash pads or water playgrounds.
The pool at McAdam's park will see the most immediate changes. It will be closed in 2017, and a new splash pad will be put in place in 2019. Many who attended the city council meeting were upset with the decision, one that wasn't easy for the council to make.
"I can't support this...and I can't support this because I don't see the equity in it." said councilwoman Lavonta Williams. After lengthy discussion, the city council approved to eventually close all but three city owned pools.
The plan will begin this year, with the closing of McAdams pool. By 2023 only three of the city's ten pools will remain open, the others all replaced with splash pads that cost less to operate.
"As an aquatics guy, I love pools. I grew up in the pools, so it's kind of hard to see us losing pools but we have to work within our means." said Troy Houtman, Director of Parks and Recreation for Wichita.
Frances Jackson attended the meeting, and she's lived in northeast Wichita for years. She says the McAdam's pool is a part of that community, and the city's decision takes away an important activity for many families.
"Swimming pools are a family activity." She said. "These splash pools, or whatever you call them, only younger people can get into them."
She and others at Tuesday's meeting shared concerns that the issue was not being handled with equality in mind. "We don't just get rid of things because this group is on the lower end, and this is in the upper end. We need to look, as a city, we need to look at what makes all of us feel loved, included and cared for."
Although the plan is now approved, she's hopeful that they may still be able to save the pool or at least get people more interested in Wichita's public spaces.
"I think with a concerted effort to show the possibilities that this could really be just a wonderful icon for the future of this town."
Many children and their parents like to spend their summers at Wichita's city pools.
This week, Wichita City Council members will review four options that affect the future of those pools.
There are currently 10 public swimming pools in the city. The first option calls for five swimming pools - Aley, College Hill, Edgemoor, Evergreen and Harvest - to be renovated or upgraded. The five remaining pools - Boston, Linwood, McAdams,
Minisa and Orchard - would be turned into splash pads.
"I think they could keep some and close some," says Kristy Russell, a parent. "I mean, I know that some of them need some work and some overhauling."
But some parents say splash pads just aren't as appealing for all ages.
"I would prefer them to stay pools. I think the pools are such a great opportunity for kids to learn how to swim and that that's so important," says Megan Brungardt, a parent.
Another option would be to keep the College Hill open and close all other pools. They would then become splash pads. Plus, the splash pads would be installed at Watson, Country Acres, Harrison, Planeview, Schweiter, Hyde and Southview parks.
"Splash pads are really fun. We go to a couple of them, but I also really like the fact that we can swim here, and I can teach him to swim, and it's a five-minute walk from my house."
The third option would keep pools at Aley, College Hill, and Harvest open and funds would be used to rehabilitate them. Water
playgrounds would replace other existing pools at Boston, Edgemoor, Evergreen, Linwood, McAdams, and Orchard.
Pools that would close would be permanently removed. The city says it just more costly to keep the pools open.
"Operating costs of a splash pad is a lot less than a swimming pool, simply because of the staffing," says Troy Houtman.
Splash pads cost about $750,000 while renovating the pools would cost the city $5 million.
"I don't think splash pads are a bad thing. I just think, if we already have pools, it would be kind of sad to lose those," says Brungardt.
The city is also working with the YMCA to take over some of the aquatic operations, which would give you more options to use pools if the one in your neighborhood is closed.
Options for the Aquatics Master plan are listed below:
Option 1 - (5 pool plan) Aley, College Hill, Edgemoor, Evergreen and Harvest pools will remain open and be rehabilitated. Water playgrounds will replace the City’s other existing pools at Boston, Linwood, McAdams, Minisa and Orchard. If a pool is removed, other amenities may need to be constructed in its place; this would be in addition to the water playground.
Option 2 - (1 pool plan) College Hill will remain open and all other pools (Aley, Boston, Edgemoor, Evergreen, Harvest, Linwood, McAdams, Minisa and Orchard) will be converted to water playgrounds. Water playgrounds will be installed at the following parks: Watson, Country Acres, Harrison, Planeview, Schweiter, Hyde and Southview.
Option 3 - (3 pool plan) Aley, College Hill, and Harvest pools will remain open and be rehabilitated. Water playgrounds will replace other existing pools at Boston, Edgemoor, Evergreen, Linwood, McAdams, and Orchard.
Frye Option - (3 pool plan modified) Aley, College Hill, and Harvest pools will remain open. College Hill 59 improvements will be limited to $800,000 to repair existing amenities and allow for the neighborhood to match funds for other improvements with a public-private partnership. Aley and Harvest will be upgraded, with costs not to exceed $4.25 million. Water playgrounds will be installed at Boston, Edgemoor, Evergreen, Linwood, Orchard, McAdams, Harrison, and Planeview. The amount spent for the water playgrounds at McAdams, Harrison and Planeview will be limited $775,000 at each location.
Pools that will be closed will be permanently removed, which is part of the expense.
The department has proposed an memorandum of understanding with the YMCA, under which the YMCA has agreed to provide swimming vouchers. The Department will pay $5,000 annually to the YMCA for the next five years based on the MOU for open swim at their locations.