District 3 Councilman Mike Craig is asking the Mayor Mike Bell administration to hold off on demolishing three swimming pools until more options can be explored.
Craig was reacting to a newspaper article last week in which a city deputy mayor was quoted saying that four pools, all in Craig’s district, were to be demolished.
All four pools, including at Ravine and Collins parks in East Toledo, are closed. The only pool open in Craig’s district is at Navarre Park, but he believes the others can still be saved.
“The administration really didn’t keep me informed,” Craig said. “I was really blindsided by The Blade article and I was kind of mad because it just so happens that it was the hottest week of the year, and I was saying, ‘This isn’t fair.’
“I think probably demolition of Highland (South Toledo) is almost inevitable. We didn’t get the usage out of Collins that we should, and I believe the last year it was open it had 127 visitors in seven weeks. But, Ravine was open three or four years ago, and Collins was closed before I took office,” Craig continued.
Craig believes closing them was more about city funding than attendance. He says the low attendance at Collins may have to do with security issues, adding that families will seek relief during hot weather.
If the pools are to be torn down, Craig would like to see a plan to rebuild them.
“You know what, you can’t use the measure, ‘It cost more to fix them than it does to tear them down,’” Craig said. “You have to measure, ‘Does it cost more to fix them than it does to rebuild them?’ because you’re saying, ‘Well, if you fix them, then you have a pool. If you tear them down, you’re done.’”
Craig held a press conference Thursday at Ravine Park in which he was joined by Bob Krompak of Neighborhood Housing Association/Neighbor Works, Jodi Gross from the East Toledo Family Center/Neighbor Works, and other community leaders and council members who were expected to join him.
Two days earlier, Craig had met with community leaders to discuss how to respond to the administration’s threat.
“We met with Mike yesterday because we’re concerned that if they demolish the pools, or whatever their plan is, then we’ll be left with just Navarre opened,” Gross, a community builder at the family center, said Wednesday.
“We need to take a stance to say, ‘Hold off on the demolition.’ We don’t know what the timeframe is, and we don’t know exactly when it could happen or if it’s going to happen.”
Gross believes the Collins Park pool is in worse shape than at Ravine Park, but believes both venues need to be reconsidered, even though administration officials are saying they are beyond repair.
“If we can save both of them I think that’s good, because we know we need more activities for the kids in the neighborhood really bad,” Gross said. “If they lose these pools, or keep them closed because obviously some are already closed, then they need to create alternatives, whether that be a splash pad or whatever that may be.”
Every last bastion torn down
Craig believes certain neighborhoods are being discriminated against.
“This isn’t fair because they’ve spent tons of money keeping Willys open, and no offense (to that West Toledo neighborhood), but every chance they got they shut Ravine down, and that is not fair. We have to have recreation and we can’t shut out certain parts of town,” Craig said.
Craig says several community organizations responded to the threat of pool demolitions.
“It’s not just the Family Center, it’s Neighborhood Housing, which is actually a branch of a national organization called Neighbor Works — and they do more than housing. They do community building and they have done surveys in the Garfield and Birmingham neighborhoods, and actually they’ve done them all over East Toledo, and the No. 1 thing that people say is we need things for our children to do.
“And here we are tearing down every last bastion of summer recreation. We’ve got to do better than that.”
The surveys indicated that reopening the Ravine and Collins park pools was a priority on residents’ lists. It also said about 30 percent of respondents were victims of a burglary or vandalism to their home or auto in the last six months and about 50 percent knew of someone who was, and Craig believes good recreation programs would keep children off the streets and reduce crime.
Craig says it is likely a one-mill recreation levy will be on an upcoming ballot.
“Recreation dollars save probably 10-to-one on crime dollars. So, let’s spend our money in productive ways,” Craig said.
Gross believes that showing an interest in pools will be important if they city wants a recreation levy passed. Plus, if it does pass, how will that affect available funding for pools?
“When we did the Birmingham survey, that survey indicated that we need to keep those pools re-opened at the time, or find an alternative,” Gross said. “The residents are saying if you don’t create something, they are not going to vote for that levy. That’s another deterrent — if they want people to vote and say yes, they need to show results.
“They’re talking about that levy for the recreation department, and where does that play into the scheme of things. We just don’t want to be left out with two or more empty spots. Obviously, Ravine Park is a lot bigger than Navarre Park, so it would accommodate a lot more people. We just want to tell them, ‘Hold off because if you make any decision, then include the community in that.’”