Toledo’s District 3 city councilman and councilman and mayoral candidate Joe McNamara discussed outrage at the Mayor Michael Bell administration for the city’s demolition of the Ravine Park pool.
Craig said he found out about the demolition, which was already underway, on Wednesday from photos posted on the East Toledo Historical Society’s Facebook page. East Toledo officials believe the razing began last Monday.
“There are walls down, there are pieces of cement literally down and it’s just the pool part of it right now. They are going to work their way up to the rest, I imagine,” said Jodi Gross, East Toledo Family Center community builder and spokesperson for One Voice for East Toledo.
He and Craig hosted a press conference Thursday morning at the corner of Dearborn Avenue and Colorado Street in East Toledo.
“The lack of communication from the administration is not acceptable. At the very least there should have been a community meeting and advanced notice to the district councilman before any demolition occurred,” Craig said,
McNamara, who will run against Bell in the next election, said, “Mayor Bell should be fighting for community anchors in Toledo, not tearing them down. This decision shows a complete disregard for local members of the community and a lack of vision for strong neighborhoods.”
Andrea Martin, leader of Block Watch 410G (Garfield neighborhood), co-chair for of One Voice’s housing and economic development committee, and an East Toledo Family Center trustee, says she understood that demolition of Ravine Park pool was supposed to be put on hold for further exploration.
“Our councilman was not informed of this through official channels. He was informed of this via Facebook last night. It is a slap in the face from the current administration to the east side residents,” Gross wrote in an email to community leaders involved in One Voice. “We can't undo the damage, but we can call them out on it and hold them accountable.
“All of the surveys recently conducted through the neighborhoods show strong support for repairing and reopening that pool. This is just one more way that the city has chosen to ignore our needs and quality of life concerns in East Toledo. One very important question is, ‘What will be put there in place of the pool if it is torn down?’ East Toledo deserves some type of recreation facility.”
Martin wants others to know “that we are not just a bunch of whining east siders.” She was referring to comments about the press conference posted on Facebook.
“While many comments talked about needing security and the pool became a 'babysitter' for some parents, most of the comments were positive to our cause,” Martin said.
Others attending the news conference were representatives from NeighborWorks, Main Street businessmen, and Garfield neighborhood residents.
Gross helped organize the press conference, which gained traction from social media and emails. She would have liked to see even more show up, but there was less than a few hours notice Thursday morning.
“I encouraged the residents who were there that they need to remind them (the city) that they need to include them (residents) in this process,” Gross said. “Being torn down, there is nothing you can do about that now. Now, we would like to be brought to the table and be part of that discussion. What is going to happen now that the pool is halfway down? East Toledo needs to be heard.”
According to levy promoters, Toledo voters had a chance to save the pools in the November 2012 election. They turned down Issue 5, a city recreation levy, with 53.2 percent disapproval.
Levy promoter Josh Thurston had said that if Issue 5 had passed, it would bring the City of Toledo in line with surrounding communities by having a separate fund for parks and recreation. The levy would have generated $3 million a year for 10 years.
Thurston said the levy, which would have cost the average homeowner $20 a year, could have meant re-opening swimming pools and bringing back athletic leagues. It could also have meant reopening Ravine and Collins park pools in East Toledo and more jobs for lifeguards and possibly individuals involved in administration of recreation activities. Craig said no effort is being made to put the levy back on the ballot.
“We understand that the levy didn’t pass, but now that it didn’t pass what’s going to happen now?” Gross asked. “When we did the surveys, we asked people, ‘If we can’t do tax levies, what else can we do?’ But people weren’t opposed to tax levies. They just said that we needed to see some type of recreation facility for our neighborhood.
“Even in Garfield, 90 percent of the people that we interviewed from that survey said they would like to see the pool opened or something there. That’s the telling part of this — what is going to be next? What are your ideas? Is it going to be an empty field again?”
Mayor Bell’s public information officer, Jennifer Sorgenfrei, responded to the criticism of the administration by email.
“This community conversation actually began at the June 19, 2012 meeting of council with the planned demolition of Highland Park,” Sorgenfrei stated. “The media further covered it on July 9, 10, 12, and 13th by detailing the administration’s plans to demolish Highland, Ashley, Ravine Park and Collins Park pools.
“The city lacks funding to make the extensive repairs necessary due to age, deterioration and vandalism, and the pools as a result are a safety hazard and a neighborhood nuisance that encourages loitering and vandalism. The administration feels there is greater value to the neighborhoods in abating the nuisances than allowing them to continue to deteriorate another six years and further impact drag down the neighborhoods.”
The pools she mentioned have been closed since 2007. Navarre Park pool in East Toledo remains open.
“The administration continues to ensure that city pools are made available in each council district in Toledo, including Councilman Craig’s district,” Sorgenfrei said.
City pools this year will open on June 24. The aquatic facilities available this year include Navarre pool; Roosevelt pool; Jamie Farr Park pool; Pickford pool; Wilson pool; Willys Park pool, and the Savage Splash Pad.
Admission is $1 for children 12 years and under and $2 for visitors 13 years and older. Children eight years and younger must be accompanied by an adult.