Inside Report: BREC ponders future of neighborhood pool

Faimon A. Roberts III

Advocate staff writer

Many people attending the Feb. 7 public meeting hosted by BREC at Anna T. Jordan Park in Scotlandville made their feelings crystal clear: Don’t take away our pool.

BREC officials are collecting public input on whether to replace the park’s aging, leaking pool with a more-hip splash pad — a decision BREC officials may make at the March 28 commission meeting.

According to BREC, the costs of the two options are similar: around $350,000.

BREC has been adding more splash pads to its parks to address changing use patterns and diminishing attendance at the pools, said Brett Weinberger, who oversees BREC’s aquatics program.

The people at the Feb. 7 meeting at Anna T. Jordan, however, wanted to keep the pool.

“We need something in this community,” said Leroy Davis, a former Baker councilman and mayor who attended the meeting. “Many African-American kids need an opportunity to swim.”

The opposition to replacing the pool with a splash pad focused on two points: the nostalgia of the people who swam in the pool in years past and the need for children to learn how to swim.

“I have been in this pool many times,” said Roy Bowie, who gave his age as “more than 70.” Bowie said he had been going to the pool since before the park was built in 1965. His son, now grown, swam in the pool as a child, he said.

Cleve Dunn said he grew up in the Banks area, but he rode his bike and walked to the pool throughout his childhood.

“I feel we need the pool,” he said.

If BREC decides to keep the pool, it won’t be open in 2013. The roughly 30-foot-by-80-foot concrete structure is in need of significant renovation. The trapezoid-shaped pool is leaking, and many of its cast-iron pipes are corroded, Weinberger said.

The costs of maintaining pools like the Anna T. Jordan are skyrocketing, he said.

“Typically, you can get 20-25 years out of a pool,” Weinberger said. The Anna T. Jordan Pool was built in the 1950s, he said.

If they opt to renovate the pool, BREC officials will replace the current pool with a smaller, rectangular pool that will be one depth — 4 feet — throughout.

The smaller pool would accommodate BREC’s “Learn to Swim” program, Weinberger said.

The decision for Anna T. Jordan comes after BREC permanently shuttered two pools last year: Jefferson Highway Park and Webb Park. Both of those pools were similar to the Anna T. Jordan pool — aging, leaking structures built a half-century ago.

“The trends are changing for user groups,” Weinberger said.

Splash pads are more in-tune with the way people use the facilities now, he said.

“You can go to a park, play in a splash pad, change clothes and go to the softball field,” he said.

That evolution is reflected in the use at BREC’s neighborhood pools and its splash pads. The pools average about 13 people per day, not including day camp children who are bused in by BREC, he said.

But splash pads are “always full,” he said.

“You can go to those sites even on a weekend in April and see hundreds of people,” Weinberger said.

People who attended the meeting at Anna T. Jordan, however, were not convinced.

“Renovate the pool,” said Irma Allen, who attended the meeting with her husband, Henry. “We’ve got too many children that need to learn how to swim.”

Faimon A. Roberts III covers city-parish government for The Advocate. He can be reached at froberts@theadvocate.com or on Twitter @faimon.