19 December 2007

CRC Jumping Before Looking

Please see my past posts on this issue here.

15 or so people spoke for 2 minutes each last night in front of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission Board. Most spoke in favor of saving a deep water pool in OTR. The Community Council President from North Fairmount (Adams?) also spoke about the proposed removal of their pool. Some points:

1. Spraygrounds are proposed to be un-monitored and some are proposed to have no showers or toilet facilities. I have been to the spraygrounds that Hamilton County Parks runs, and they have toilets, concessions as well as lifeguards on duty. They enforce the rules, keep order, and shut the system down when a child has a diaper accident. A sprayground without toilets and showers is unsanitary. A sprayground without guards is unsafe. However, the whole point of this CRC plan is to reduce lifeguard staff. And that is another point. Lifeguards do not get paid that much. How much of the annual budget goes to them? None of this is spelled out in the report.

2. Spraygrounds are enjoyed mostly by little kids. If bigger kids come to an unsupervised sprayground, they will be causing trouble.

3. CRC has proposed providing transportation from North Avondale and OTR to take kids to deepwater pools. They will not be taking parents or other family members though, just swim team members.

3. Brandstetter Carrol, the architects hired to study the pools, specialize in spraygrounds, so obviously, this is what they propose to put all over the city.

4. Lifeguards, especially the swim coaches, fill a big brother type role in many adolescent boys summers.

5. The CRC Board said we should speak to Council, as they have given the directive to reduce the number of pools. First, I don't believe that this is true. Some council members have taken this position, but have retracted it when there was an outcry. Secondly. When we talk to 3CDC, they say it is the Park Board making these decisions. When you talk to the Park Board, they say it is the Recreation Commission making these decisions. When you talk to the Recreation Commission, they say it is Council Making the decisions. When you talk to a Councilmember, they say they are following staff recommendations.

6. All of the current 41 pools are operated on a 1.5 million annual budget. This is not nearly enough, and is why many pools have such limited hours. However, this is a small part of CRC total budget, not to mention a very very tiny part of the City's annual budget.

7. In the analysis of the existing pools, by Branstetter Carrol, they state that the all-aluminum pools are of superior construction and generally do not have leaks and are still in good condition. This is the type of pool in Washington Park and Mt. Auburn (both proposed to be removed). The shallow water pools, such as Inwood, Mt. Adams, Ziegler, and Faiview, are older concrete pools, that have been modified over the years and re-lined. These shallow-water pools are in genuine need of replacement. These are all proposed to be removed completely. 7 of these older pools have already been removed over the past few years.

8. CRC staff say that a spraygrounds are very popular in other cities, and will attract several times more users than a deepwater pool. However, CRC installed their first sprayground a few years ago when they replaced a pool on Bank Street. My family has been to that sprayground, and it does not have great attendance and is not that nice of a facility.

In my opinion, the spraygrounds will be in service 5-10 years, then they will be vandalized and in need of major upgrades. Then the spraygrounds will not be turned on one year, then they will start to be removed.

Some of the Board is receptive to criticism (Catherine Ingram for example), and they obviously want to think this out and perhaps make changes to the plan to guarantee that there is a successful outcome. Others on the Board (Driehaus) and some staff (Norman Merrifield and Jeff Koopman)at the CRC are single-minded and are willing to jump into this plan without further thought.

My advice: look to see if the pool is filled with water before jumping.

Here is a list of the CRC Board Members:
Denise Driehaus, President
Rev. KZ Smith, Vice President
Roscoe Fultz
Mike Moeddel
Catherine Ingram


Radarman said...

Fewer, but better pools ought to be the watchword. Cincinnatians talk a good game about the need to have facilities close by, but even in the poorest neighborhoods the children are driven to their amusements.

CityKin said...

We already have fewer pools. CRC closed 7 pools over the past few years. And, I could settle for fewer pools if the ones that remain are improved with amenities and the hours lengthened. I don't think we will get that with this plan.

All of the kids on our current swim team walk to the pool by themselves without parents. They are taken by a CRC mini-bus to meets at other pools. I am the only parent at our pool who drives to the meets.

Several times this past summer when Washington Park Pool was closed for repairs, many of the kids walked all the way up to Hanna, which is probably a half-hour walk.

Hanna is a nice facility, but the original plan for it included a deepwater pool for the swim team. Unfortunately, the pool portion was never built.

Anonymous said...

I hear your angst with the whole situation Mike. I grew up swimming competitively, lifeguarding, running a pool, and coaching swimming. I want our pools to be saved - and originally wanted Ziegler (across the street from where I live) to be a deep water pool.

After I heard the presentation at the OTR Rec Center, several things that resonated most are the fact that Spraygrounds can be open longer and can be turned on with the flip of a switch. When I see Ziegler closed for the season during the second week of our hottest month, there is a problem. And unfortunately, the pot of money this commission has is getting smaller and smaller...so these pools will close entirely or remain with 5-hour days, 5 days a week, for two months a year.

Also, dont forget the at the OTR Rec Center deep water pool will still be there and will be enhanced.

And to note: pools require a pool manager and typically three or more lifeguards. Managers make pretty good money and lifeguards make a decent wage, but the problem is they all return back to school during the third week of school so the pools have to close.

While I'd much rather see a deep water pool next to my house, I have to think about the greater number of hours and much-extended season of these spraygrounds providing an activity for all of the kids in my neighborhood.

CityKin said...

Thanks for a thoughtful comment Dave.

I think CRC is setting themselves up for failure by trying to lure kids to an indoor pool at the Rec Center.

The site is claustrophobic and hidden. Trying to get kids to go to an indoor pool (even with garage doors added) when it is 90 degrees outside, I think will not succeed. Maybe I will be proven wrong, but Ziegler and Wash Park locations are much more visible and likely to succeed. I can say for certain that I will not spend my summer afternoons at the Rec Center.

CRC maintains the current playground and picnic area at Ziegler, and you can see the condition of those sites now. How beat-up will an un-monitored spray ground look at that location in a few years?

And still there is the point about the safety and sanitation at such facilities if they have no staff.

OTR residents should join forces with the downtown residents, the Mt. Auburn, Mt. Adams and Fairview residents and ask that a fourth aquatics center be added to cover the central area of town. The current plan calls for one in Westwood, one in Bond Hill and One in Oakely.

Anonymous said...

Agreed on the indoor pool thing Mike...no fun.

I forgot to mention the Lincoln Rec Center in the West End - I was there last year and it was pretty nice. Not many people, a HUGE pool, chairs, recently renovated, and some shady areas. I know it's not in OTR, but it's not a bad walk...just down Court to Linn.

Anonymous said...

The Lincoln pool is great. I especially like how they have grassy areas and mature shade trees. The trouble is it is too far for someone who usually goes to Ziegler to get to. I am the only adult at our pool almost every day in the summer. All of the kids walk. Some younger ones, 5-6, come with older siblings or cousins. I don't think they could get over to Lincoln.

Besides, the tragedy of this plan is the sheer wastefulness of it. They plan to plow under some pools that are in perfectly good condition and well used and replace them with totally temporary and inferior facilities. It is defeatism. They are not building the city up, they are tearing it down and spending $3 million more to do so than it would to repair the existing pools.

Guards do not make that much and the CRC has admitted that they are a miniscule part of their budget. How does one get a copy of their budget anyway?