WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The McAdams community and other city organizers presented city council with a new proposal to get their neighborhood pool reopened. Since the closing announcement, the McAdams community has rallied around the reopen of the pool with other Wichita residents who have shown up to city council meetings to question the close.
Tuesday Wichita resident, Donna Wirth, took the stand to question how the city is spending its money.
“We are closing a pool in a less affluent neighborhood, while wanting to invest in more privileged neighborhoods,” said Wirth. “If affordability is the issue, why are plans being made to spend money enhancing other neighborhoods; building a man-made lake in northwest Wichita or creating $1.2 million worth of bike pads in my own neighborhood park, Pawnee Prairie Park.”
A local sorority was also in attendance at the last city council meeting but rather than question the money they questioned the alternatives. Those that took to the stand said splash pads were not effective and in their opinion would not provide kids with lessons that can be used throughout their lives, like swimming. Adding that splash pads are for a younger group of children. The rallying communities new proposal includes opening the pool for a period of time to offer swim lessons.
“By providing this one day event would be able to offer that needed assistance to prevent children in life or death situations that may have the institution for swimming but need that additional support,” said sorority member, Connie Mansaw. ” What I’m asking is that you consider allowing support for a one day swimming initiative that will allow swimming instruction and basic safety skills for our youth and teens in the Wichita community.”
As it stands, the McAdams pool is still closed with no talk of a reopen but folks in the community say if you take away one thing you have to be willing to give another. In this instance, they are asking the council to consider reopening the pool for one day to allow them to team with Swim USA, who has agreed to provide underprivileged kids with free swim lessons.
Since the announcement of the pool closing in February, community members have organized themselves around the reopen; hosting flash mobs, rallies and attending city council meetings regularly. I spoke with Mayor Jeff Longwell about the communities efforts.
“Sometimes, I feel like we are under attack,” explained Longwell. “People show up to these meetings with the idea that I personally have made a decision to take from their community.”
The city made the decision to close several pools earlier in the year and McAdams was the first on the chopping block, being the only to close this summer. That has been met with controversy as those from the community have expressed feelings of being targeted.
“How can we have pride in our city if they keep taking all of our resources?” said Timora Parker.
Mayor Longwell responded to this by pointing out the efforts the city has made in the community adding that reopening the pool for one day would cost the city $11,000.
“We have spent nearly $3 million on revamping the McAdams park, streets and plenty of other amenities for that community,” explained Mayor Longwell. “I’m a big fan of collaboration. Rather then spend $11,000 to reopen the pool for one day, why don’t we talk about a collaboration with WSU’s Heskett center where kids can go and swim in their pool for free.”
Mayor Longwell also pointed out that the splash pads that will replace the McAdama pool will provide for longer hours throughout the year.
“Before, the pool had limited hours and closed in July,” explained Longwell. “The nice thing about the splash pads is they have much longer hours and will stay open until August.”
Those that have been fighting for the reopen of the pool say this is yet another way that the city is neglecting to allow the same resources as other communities. Recently, the city gained some wiggle room with the sale of the Hyatt. Some Wichita residents argue that this money should allow for their pool and others to remain open.
“There is money here,” said a Wichita resident. “It’s just about what the city wants to spend it on.”
To this Mayor Longwell responded:
“We’re taking $10 million from the sale of the Hyatt and putting it into neighborhood streets because we know if we rebuild neighborhood streets people will take pride and ownership on their block,” said Mayor Longwell. “We’ve invested in new ball diamonds– the nicest diamond that you’ll find in the city of Wichita with terrific bleachers and dugouts and all of the amenities you want.”
As it stands the McAdams pool will remain closed.