Editorial – Save Lincoln Park Pool

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 24, 2008

When it comes to the future of the city’s Lincoln Park Pool, a good place to wade into these contentious waters is this passage from the Salisbury 2020 Vision plan, the blueprint that describes the environment Salisbury hopes to create for all of its citizens:
“The City shall continually reinvest in the infrastructure of its older urban neighborhoods, including but not limited to: park improvements, sidewalks, street maintenance, street trees, street lights, water and sewer lines, and drainage.”
With that in mind, which sounds like more of an investment for the older urban neighborhood around Lincoln Park Pool ó updating and repairing the pool, which has served families in the surrounding South Long Street area and beyond for four decades, or filling in the pool and installing a splash and spray pad? Draining the pool may avoid another drain on the budget, but it’s not going to improve the park or the neighborhood.
As city officials have learned since they first dived into this issue, residents are upset about the pool’s possible closing, and they have reason to be. To put it bluntly, the city has allowed its only municipally operated pool to fall into disrepair, and now the expense of renovation is offered as reason to close it. Nearby residents have pointed out that this has occurred while the city has undertaken other park improvement projects, including development of a 300-acre park and sports complex that lies several miles away, outside the city proper. With its ball fields and a fishing lake, that park is a wonderful addition ó but is the Lincoln Park community any less deserving of having a convenient and well-maintained recreational facility?
Besides running counter to Salisbury’s vision of being a city that invests in and values neighborhood recreational amenities, closing the pool also would clash with its anti-gang initiative. When expanding park programs was one of the suggestions for fighting gangs, it just doesn’t make sense to close the only city-run pool. Although the lifeguard shortage needs to be addressed, the pool provides a safe and fun environment where young people can hang out and get some good exercise. In a city that wants to support stable communities with “neighbors greeting neighbors” (also from the 2020 plan), the pool offers a gathering spot where residents can meet and greet one another while enjoying the benefits of communal child supervision.
City officials have emphasized that the pool will remain open this summer. That means there’s time to discuss the pool’s future and see if other options can’t be found. First, residents and the city need to get a firm handle on the extent of necessary repairs and how much they would cost. The possibility of having to demolish the existing pool and start over has been raised ó but is that really the only avenue for preserving the pool? What funding sources might be available, beyond the parks and recreation budget?
Renovating Lincoln Park Pool certainly won’t be cheap, and the city had more on its wish list than it has dollars to spend. But before city officials cast this decision in concrete, they should carefully consider the pool’s value to the East End community and revisit their own vision for Salisbury.