The Washington parks board at its last meeting discussed the possible closure of the municipal swimming pool. The board does not have the final word on the pool. It can only recommend matters to the city council.
The parks board discussed the age of the pool, costs to operate it and a somewhat decline in attendance.
To begin with, municipal pools are not built and operated to make money, or even break even. They are built to provide a recreational service to citizens, especially for the young in the population. They are as important to citizens as any of the other park facilities. Yes, the pool is old and undoubtedly needs some upgrades. Our city auditorium, the pavilion near it and other park facilities also are old. Should they be torn down? They don’t break even in costs to operate them.
Attendance is down somewhat. But the pool is not open as long as it used to be. The old schedule was to be open from Memorial Day weekend to the Labor Day weekend. Yes, we know, some of the lifeguards return to college the middle of August and help is hard to find. That’s been true for years and yet the pool used to be open longer. There are more private pools today and the country club has a pool. That may have something to do with a somewhat declining attendance, which, of course, depends much on the weather.
There is a segment of our city population, and the nearby area, that has no access to the private pools. The Washington municipal pool is their pool.
The pool used to be managed by local people hired by the parks board. Now the board contracts with a St. Louis pool company to operate the pool. We don’t have local operation now. That takes a load off the parks director and other employees, but is it best for the operation of the pool? What does the St. Louis firm know about the tradition of Washington having a pool?
At the pool, there used to be Red Cross swimming lessons, beginning and advanced courses. That was one of the valuable attributes of the city pool. Over the years, thousands of young people took advantage of the courses since the pool was opened in 1936. It should be noted the pool has been upgraded a couple of times.
The pool is another of the parks’ features in which the entire family has access to for recreation.
The pool has had a swim team. Swim meets have been held there. The competition has been a healthy endeavor.
A municipal pool is one of the many assets the city has to help entice people to live here. It is a valuable asset to the overall appeal a municipality has. To not have a municipal pool would be a backward step for the city. How many cities the size of Washington do not have a pool? Not many! Are we going to have to send swimmers to other smaller nearby cities that have pools?
The city has a capital improvement sales tax renewal coming up soon. A special allocation could be included for the swimming pool. We know the parks’ budget is being squeezed now to meet all the demands.
The Washington pool has had a long history of benefiting the residents of Washington, and people in other nearby areas. The times change and there are more recreational outlets for young and old today here. Swimming has been a healthy recreational pursuit. The pool is a tradition. What is needed is a local pool operator who would promote the pool to increase attendance. We once had that type of an operation. It paid off. But the city always will have to subsidize pool operations. It always has.
To not have a municipal pool in Washington would be a terrible mistake. Washington has the resources to operate a swimming pool. Perhaps the city needs to look at some other areas to curb spending so subsidizing the pool would not be considered such a burden.
The city swimming pool has been such an important recreational and training facility in people’s lives since the days of the Great Depression that we can’t imagine Washington without a pool.