East Toledo community leaders renewed calls on the Bell administration Thursday to halt plans to demolish pools in their corner of the city, saying residents need to be involved in decision-making.
A group of leaders, including District 3 Councilman Mike Craig, and several dozen community members gathered at Ravine Pool to denounce the demolition plans. Some said they were surprised to learn this week about the city's plans to raze four of 11 public swimming pools.
City officials have proposed demolishing Ravine Park pool and Collins Park pool in East Toledo and Ashley and Highland pools on the city's south side. The pools, which have been badly vandalized since their closings several years ago, would be very costly to repair, the administration said.
Bob Krompak, who works for the community development group Neighborhood Housing Association, said many residents in District 3 see the pools as valuable neighborhood assets.
That's particularly the case with Ravine Pool, he said, which served several neighborhoods and was a popular recreational facility before it was shuttered in 2009, community members said. Mr. Krompak said he and other neighborhood leaders were shocked to learn about the city's demolition plans for that pool because they had been hoping to meet with administration officials and discuss the potential to reopen it.
"A lot of people, especially in working-class and low-income areas in East Toledo, a lot of them don't have transportation to go to places like Maumee Bay [State Park].… We think it's critical that kids have an opportunity to go someplace and get some good, fun recreation," he said. "We hope the city will listen to what the people in the neighborhood have to say, and allow them to share their creativity in finding a solution."
Jodi Gross, community builder for the East Toledo Family Center, said more recreational options are needed for people in the area, not less. If the city is going to demolish pools, it needs to show residents it intends to provide recreational alternatives in their place, she said.
Such a move would help build support for a 1-mill parks and recreation levy that is on the November ballot, Ms. Gross said. "We need those neighborhood things that the community can utilize: pools, splash pads, parks," she said. "We need basic, healthy activities for families. We don't need another corner restaurant, we don't need another carry-out. We need activities that are going to make families healthier."
Councilman Craig said repairing some pools could be cheaper than demolishing them. He pointed to the city's recent $277,000 outlay to rehab Roosevelt Pool in central Toledo, and questioned why funds can't be put into restoring the other facilities.
Even so, the councilman agreed Highland Park pool should be torn down.
A neighborhood group there has agreed that pool needs to be demolished, while some neighbors of Collins Park also favor razing that pool.
Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the city will move forward with its plans to remove Highland Park pool, which he predicted would start in about a month.
However, he said the mayor has agreed to hold off on demolishing any others until next year's capital budget is set.
Nevertheless, he added, it makes no sense to reopen all of the pools because some were barely used.
"The mayor has indicated that he is willing to take some time and see what might be able to be done," Mr. Herwat said. "Are we in a position to be able to open all of the pools? Certainly, no."
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6272.