Public Pools Come Up Dry

1 decade 11 months 2 weeks ago Monday, November 05 2007 Nov 5, 2007 Monday, November 05, 2007 10:15:32 AM CST November 05, 2007 in News

With students heading back to school, most swimming pools in Columbia have closed. However, for some of those pools, attendance was a little dry.

Douglass, Hickman, Oakland... the list of pools goes on. However some of those pools didn't make a big splash with the public this summer.

While Oakland topped the list with nearly 30,000 attendees, Twin Lakes was next at nearly 20,000.  Hickman followed with more than 5,000, while Douglass came in at nearly 4,000.  The least attended pool this summer was Lake of the woods with less than 3,500 attendees.

Still, the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department isn't concerned about Lake of the Woods, it's the smallest pool in town.  They are mostly concerned about the shallow attendance at Douglass pool.

"I've changed hours, I've changed fees, I've tried anywhere from free to what it is right now, so price ranges," Recreation Supervisor Janel Twehous said. "I've tried a little bit of everything; I'm not sure why attendance is lacking."

"The city's put a lot of time, money and funds into the pool and it's got some heritage to it," John Grant, Head Manager of the Douglass Pool, said. "It's the oldest city pool in Columbia, it was built in 1938. And I'm just surprised that it's not more of a busy location."

Because of the low numbers, the pools had to make some changes. Douglass stayed open later during the week. And after 6 p.m., they lowered their price to a flat rate of $1.75.

"There are a number of people in the area who don't have air conditioning," Gary Ristow, Recreation Services Manager for the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, said. "Plus it's core to the income around, the surrounding area is relatively low compared to the rest of the city so it's an opportunity for residents there to swim at a lesser rate."

Still, the cheaper and centrally located pool loses customers to a more expensive pool on the outskirts of town. 

There's a high level of interest in the beauty of Oakland's facilities, but when it comes to Douglass, other views come to mind.

"It could have been in a different location because the people that work here are not here 24/7," First Ward resident Candace Jones said. "They can't control what goes on when they're not here and a lot of people come and party at this park, have events at this park."

"It's the government housing area, then I think people look at that differently also," Twehous said. "To me it's a beautiful facility; it's a beautiful piece of blue water that needs to be utilized a lot more than what it currently is."

For Jones, the water wasn't always beautiful. 

"There's so many people that just throw glass," she said. "The last time I was at this pool, I cut my foot, so I just quit going."

Some believe the bad reputation began two summers ago when Omar Burress Jr. climbed a fence after hours and drowned.

"I think it had some impact, but not a lot. Tragedies happen," Jones said.

"The park itself may have a bad rep, but now it's been cleaned up," Twehous said. "We don't have problems there."

The only problem Douglass has, is getting more swimmers.

Columbia Parks and Recreations effort haven't gone completely unnoticed. Attendance at Douglass surprisingly went up this summer, compared to last. But in efforts to increase swimmers even more, Parks and Rec is considering lowering the flat rate next summer to $1 for all adults. The department is also taking an active role in hiring more minorities and they even     provide attendees with a financial aid program; a  All a family has to do is apply.

Parks and Rec is doing all they can to ensure success for each pool in upcoming summers including equality in the budget.  There is one big budget in which they lump all of the funds; the money is then divided according to each individual pools need.

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