It is the intention of the City of Alexandria to close the Warwick Pool. According to the proposed 2011 Capital Improvement Plan, The city anticipates the failure of the pool in the very near future, and in that instance would close the pool. In a city of nearly 150,000 people, that would leave only one full-size outdoor pool, the Old Town Pool near the King Street Metro Station. It would end a recreational program that enhances the health of its citizens and provides youth the opportunity to succeed, which are two of City Councils strategic goals.
If the Warwick Pool is lost, it can never be replaced. We must save Warwick Pool.
It is ironic in the year that we named a pool as a memorial to the children who have drowned in the Potomac River during Alexandrias segregated past that we would close a swimming pool that provides a safe opportunity for children to become acclimated to the water. This is not just simply an academic or financial problem. It is a matter of life and death. Nearly 60 percent of African-American children cannot swim, almost twice the figure for white children, according to a survey by USA Swimming. Blacks are three times as likely to drown as whites. These are statistics from 2008, not 1958.
While simultaneously being excluded from public pools, few swimming pools were ever built to serve the black community. Yet, this is not about just the black community. Hispanics and other minorities are also at a significantly greater risk of drowning.
This closure affects the entire community, especially the most vulnerable elements our children. If you do not learn to swim and be unafraid of deep water as a child, it becomes exponentially more difficult as a teen and nearly impossible as an adult.
What is the citys plan for the Warwick Pool? The current plan is to re-purpose the pool as a spray park. At the risk of sounding contemptuous, and not meaning to sound funny, you cannot learn how to swim in a shower.
Funding for the planned renovation of the Warwick Pool is eliminated. This facility will be decommissioned when ordinary repairs are no longer able to keep it useable, states the city manager in his message on the budget. There is no plan for Warwick Pool in the event of its failure, but to leave it closed.
A paltry $52,000 has been allocated for maintenance of public pools, and this number remains static for the next 10 years. A study needs to be done to at least explore what options are available to shore up the structure at Warwick Pool.
Before we sit on our hands and let the pool fail, there needs to be an open discussion on what recourses are available. At the same time we must guard against excessive cost, both in repairs and in admission. Cost has always been an obstacle for giving children, especially disadvantaged ones, the opportunity to swim. The current cost of admission to Warwick Pool is $1 per child, $2 for adults. It could be said that this admission is too low. The cost for admission for city residents to Chinquapin is $4 per child, $6 for adults, which is unattainable to many families. The socioeconomic dimensions of this decision should not be underestimated. The private apartments, gated communities, or those with the wherewithal to afford membership at a private pool will enjoy the refreshing dip in the water on the notoriously hot and humid Washington summers. The poor will be left hot and unhappy.
It always seems that we target the things people turn to in times of economic stress for reductions or closure. We must tread this water carefully. But to do nothing and allow the Warwick Pool to disappear would be a travesty. We must save the Warwick Pool.
Gary J. Carr