Community rallies to save Gus Young Pool

Residents sound off on closing of Gus Young pool

With algae-green water and padlocks, the Gus Young Park neighborhood pool is at the end of its life.  Closed now for the third summer, BREC says the pool is beyond repairing. 

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Replacing it would top out at nearly half a million, plus another $92 thousand a year in maintenance.

BREC's superintendent says that's something taxpayer's can't afford.

"I cannot in good conscience justify spending scarce taxpayer dollars for a swimming pool that only five people walk to and use on a daily basis," said BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight in a statement.

BREC's plan to close the pool goes back to 2007, when the organization made a move to focus more on larger community parks and a community aquatics plan.  That plan included building Liberty Lagoon and keeping pools in the community parks which have more visitors.  That also meant that smaller, neighborhood pools would be phased out.

BREC has already closed three other neighborhood pools at Barringer, Webb and Jefferson Highway facilities.  Gus Young, which only averaged 5 visitors a day when open, is the last on the list. 

However, in a water rich state, BREC officials say teaching kids to swim remains an important mission.

"We've worked hard over the last few years to make sure that we are making that opportunity available.  We're serving more kids than ever before and we're going to continue doing that because it is one of our top priorities," said BREC spokesperson Cheryl Michelet.

Swim lessons are still available at Liberty Lagoon and other BREC parks a few miles from Gus Young.  Money saved from closing the other pools has been used to create a partnership with the YMCA called a “Splash Pass” which allows kids to swim at the Y for $3.  Adults can swim for $6. 

However, the pending closure of the Gus Young Pool has upset neighbors who call the nearly 50 year old facility historic.  On Sunday, they held a rally hoping to build support for the pool.  Even with the other swimming options, many say transportation is a problem.

"These people don't have transportation. These children don't even have the fee to swim in those neighborhoods they're telling them to go to," said NAACP representative Alfreda Tillman Bester.

What will become of the pool location is still undecided.  It is possible that a splash pad could be installed, something Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said she would accept as a compromise. 

However, at nearly $500 million, BREC would need donors or sponsors to come forward to pay for the splash pad construction. 

Michelet says in the past, other neighborhoods have gathered financial support to help expand a park's renovation budget.  For example, Raising Cane's sponsors several of the city's dog parks.

Other ideas for the park include an outdoor pavilion to host community events and practices, as well as a community garden.  However, Marcelle says her residents just want their pool.

"We want something to holistically include every part of the community whether you're young, old or whatever," said Marcelle.
BREC plans to remove the pool by the end of the summer.  At that time they will hold a community meeting to get resident input on what to construct.

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