Sunday, May 08, 2005

Four more city pools won't open in 2005 -- we can do much better.

Four city pools high, dry - "Four city pools high, dry

Pittsburgh officials say four more city swimming pools won't open this summer.

Save Our Summer -- 2004 -- is DEAD. In 2004, the SOS effort was to raise money to get a band-aid to put onto a dead body.

Allegheny County was trying to get the operation of the newer city pool up in Lincoln Place. What happened with that deal? Let me guess. Perhaps those on Grant Street displayed their lack of willingness to play well with others.

"The pool is all we have here," said Marlene Emro, 64, a long-time resident of Lincoln Place. "We have the city school Mifflin Elementary, the pool and no other city things here. It's a shame. Our kids are out here at the end of the world."

"It's not fair," Emro said. "We pay taxes, and the children deserve the chance to go up and take a dip."
Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields, whose 5th District includes Lincoln Place, said the tentative closing there is especially troubling because McBride is a newer pool; it opened just a few years ago to replace an above-ground pool.

Lincoln Place residents are worried the new pool will deteriorate if it's not used and maintained.

Shields, of Squirrel Hill, said he plans to work with state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, to investigate getting a state grant to operate McBride.

As for the closings citywide, Shields said: "If you open one and not the other, someone else is going to feel the pain. There are no good choices to be made here.


Before McBride opened, I voiced a protest. I went on the record saying that the swim pool there should NOT have been built. Readshaw, D, PA House, brought home some pork for the building of that pool. It is a dinky pool. It took the place of another dinky pool. It is inferior. Our kids got robbed. Our city got robbed.

I raised the objections that the pool should be built in the first place. I didn't want to spend the state money on the pool. It was no gift as operational costs were not part of the solution.

I said that the city should build the pool there only after the aquatics task force had suggested that it be built. The aquatic task force was concerned about the city's swim pool landscape -- but it was another joke miss-managed by the city's mayor and city council.

The Mt. Washington pool is another sad note. Paul Renee, a candidate for city council in the D primary for the seat formerly held by Alan Hertzberg, was one of the champions in 2004 in efforts to reopen Reams. Rene, with some help, paid to open the swim pool at Reams in Mt. Washington last year. He got a great lesson in how hard it is to operate a rec facility. It isn't easy -- it isn't hard -- it is long.

What is worse, the pool opening in Mt. Washington blazed a new pathway in city and community cooperation. But sadly, the operations are not going to be sustained. It would have been wonderful if the REAMS model was able to pull its own weight and expand to other now closed pools.

No large-scale money-raising effort is under way to open more pools. John Ellis, spokesman for the Pittsburgh Foundation, said last year's "Save Our Summer" campaign -- which raised more than $600,000 for the pools -- was a one-time effort. The pools' futures are in the hands of the city this year, he said.

These make good examples as to why we need a new direction. Let's work to form a new Pittsburgh Park District.

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