It's been several years since all 11 of Toledo's public swimming pools and its water play park opened for the summer.
Now, with closed pools marred by vandalism and the city's budget still constrained, some of the closings are likely to become permanent.
Five of the city's pools are shuttered, and Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said this week the city will demolish at least four of them. The fate of the fifth hangs in the balance.
Collins Park and Ravine pools in East Toledo, Ashley Pool in the near south end, and Highland Park Pool in South Toledo have been deemed beyond repair. Destroyed by thieves and vandals and ravaged by time, the pools are far too costly to fix, officials said.
"Realistically, demolition is the only option," Mr. Herwat said. "When you have limited resources, you have to make choices. Unfortunately, we have to live within our means."
Officials hope to save Detwiler Pool, an Olympic-sized facility in North Toledo, by finding a private group to take it over.
Several organizations have been contacted, but no one has stepped up to manage it yet, said Denny Garvin, the city director of parks, recreation, and forestry. Still, because Detwiler remains in reasonable condition, the city has no plans to demolish it, he said.
All the pools closed in 2007 during budget cuts made under Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. Ravine Pool reopened for the 2008 summer but closed again the following year. Officials shuttered Detwiler in 2009 after thieves broke in and stole plumbing fixtures, district Councilman Lindsay Webb said.
The other pools were broken into after they were closed for the season, officials said.
Councilman Mike Craig fumed at the damage wrought by thieves. He said the city needs to make sure all its property is well secured.
All four pools slated for demolition are within Mr. Craig's district, leaving the area he represents with just Navarre pool on White Street.
Still, the councilman said closing some of the pools wasn't necessarily a bad idea.
Those facing demolition generally didn't attract enough people during the summer to justify the cost of keeping them open, he said.
During the last year Collins Park was open, just 128 people went to the pool throughout the season, Mr. Craig said.
"The whole issue of pools and recreation needs to be looked at," he said. "We have a limited number of dollars, and if you're going to spend a significant portion of that on eight weeks in the summer, we might want to look at that."
Mr. Craig and Ms. Webb said the situation highlights the need for voters and the city to re-examine priorities on pools and other forms of recreation.
At its last meeting, council voted to place a 1-mill levy request on the November ballot for park facilities and recreation programs.
Ms. Webb said she hopes some of the pools can be saved if the levy passes.
No demolition dates have yet been set for any of the pools, and funding for taking down only Highland Park pool has been identified.
A survey of residents carried out in advance of placing the levy on the ballot indicated people in the city feel strongly about keeping their pools, Councilman Webb said.
"They said, 'Fix pools, even if it's expensive,' " Ms. Webb said. "We're hearing from residents that opening pools is extremely important to them, so I would think that would drive the master plan process and then drive what we do if the levy gets passed."
Council has approved the creation of a recreation master plan that, with input from the community, would be used to help decide how to spend future levy funds.
Mr. Herwat, too, said passing the recreation levy could alter demolition plans for the pools. But "that's another discussion for another day," he remarked.
Recreation Director Mr. Garvin said he would like to see water parks with slides and shallow pools replace the current facilities.
"People don't drown, you can turn them off and on, you don't need big water purification systems, you have a different type of lifeguard and crowd control, there's not the same chance for vandalism … and they're a lot of fun," he said.
Water parks still would take money to build, and that's something Toledo doesn't have a lot of at the moment, Mr. Herwat said.
For residents, losing the neighborhood pools is either a blessing or a disappointment.
Some expressed relief that the vandalized structures might be removed finally.
Others lamented the idea of losing a recreational space for themselves and their children.
Jason Willis, 41, who lives a block away from Highland Park, said he used to take his now 6-year-old daughter to swim there before it closed.
Now, he has to travel to another part of the city to take her swimming, or take her to a relative's house.
"I was disappointed because now I have no place for my child. We have to go out of our way," he said. "That pool was in a nice spot."
Marcela Hernandez-Snyder, 34, remembered walking to Highland Park pool as a child with friends from the neighborhood. Now with a 6-year-old of her own, she said she wishes her son had the same opportunity.
"It used to be nice when we were little," she said. "It's sad. It used to be full every year. Now it makes the neighborhood look bad. It's all cracked up."
Residents like 48-year-old Melody Grosswiler said they would be glad to see it go, however.
Ms. Grosswiler said the pool is a dangerous place to be, and she's scared to walk past it by herself.
Sarah Abts, a local resident and member of the Highland Heights Neighborhood Association, said her organization had pressed the city to get the pool repaired when it was first closed, but now agrees it should be demolished.
"It's an all-around problem. It looks worse and worse all the time," she said.
Neighbors in the Collins Park area also applauded pool demolition there.
Joe Materni, 46, a father of five sons, said the facility attracted troublemakers when it was open, causing problems for local residents and making the pool an unpleasant place for other children.
"It always brings in that larger element of bad people who don't have a stake in the neighborhood," he said.
"Am I sorry to see it go? No."
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6272.