The wading pool, a centerpiece of Millwood City Park since 1954, was scheduled to be demolished this spring due to a budget shortfall, staffing and liability issues. But an outcry from city’s residents has officials reconsidering.
“There’s been no discussion at all,” said Connie Berland, Millwood resident and business owner. “I don’t think that’s right. I think the residents of Millwood should have a say.”
Berland, owner of Kids Are Us Child Care on Argonne Road, uses the pool biweekly as part of her summer program. At February’s City Council meeting, she presented a letter asking for the opportunity to discuss the pool’s future. She has also circulated a flier to request community input.
Berland first heard of the pending removal from another resident, Bobbie Beese, who attended the council’s special budget workshop last year where staff discussed demolition.
“The staff making a decision about the pool as part of budget without any discussion and no community input surprised me,” Beese said, who spoke out at several council meetings regarding the pool.
According to Beese, several parks in the area used to have wading pools but all have since been replaced. She sees the pool as an opportunity for Millwood to differentiate from other area communities referencing an article titled, The Place Making Dividend, written by Edward T. McMahon in the fall 2010 Planning Commissioners Journal.
“It’s part of what makes us, us,” Beese said in reference to the unique appeal of the pool. “They are underestimating its importance to the community.”
“I’m very disappointed,” longtime Millwood resident Heather Cummins, 33, said of the proposed removal. Cummins remembers swimming the pool when she was little. “My earliest memory is when I was 4. I always looked forward to going. It seemed so big then.”
Today Cummins continues the tradition by taking her children, ages 3 and 5 to the pool.
In her research, Beese found a number of communities operating and maintaining wading pools, including Seattle.
Seattle Park and Recreation Aquatics Director Kathy Whitman said the city has 25 wading pools and plans to keep open the sites with high attendance.
“They are very popular with families,” Whitman said.
Millwood’s wading pool was conceived in the mid-1940s as part of an overall vision for the park. Now the last of its kind in the area, the 24-foot circular park wading pool opened in 1954.
“The city adopted a historical chapter to the comprehensive code, Beese said, who wants the city to recognize the pool’s historical significance. “This would indicate they should consider the historic aspect and talk about it before they demolish it.”
According to city maintenance supervisor Cleve McCoul, the pool requires resurfacing, costing an estimated $15,000. The proposed 1/8-inch rubberized paint would provide approximately 15 years more of use.
Millwood recently received two bids to demolish the pool, a project that would cost approximately $3,000.
“It needs quite a bit of work,” Mayor Dan Mork said. “I want people to be aware there aren’t a lot of options.”
Mork believes that replacing the pool with something like a spray park for younger children would better serve the community than paying to have it resurfaced. His short-term plan was to replace it with sod.
The city’s budget shortfall is one of the reasons it has planned to demolish the facility. The annual operating costs for the pool, estimated at $5,800, were removed from the budget. Mork also states it has been difficult to staff the facility with a full-time attendant.
Mork said the city is currently looking for a different insurance carrier and the liability issues surrounding the pool make insurance tougher and more expensive to get. If the city is unable to obtain insurance coverage, Mork said the city has no choice but to remove the pool. He hopes to have that information for the next council meeting.
Councilman Kevin Freeman discovered a number of municipalities across the country replacing pools with spray features due to liability issues. This prompted him to question the city’s overall coverage.
“I want to ensure the city has proper protections in place,” Freeman said of the pool remaining in the park, “so it’s safe and enjoyable for all who come and enjoy the pool.”
Mork and Freeman agree residents need to have a say in the pool’s future.
“I really want to see something done with it one way or another,” Beese said. “However, if it’s pulled out, I feel better knowing people had a chance to weigh in.”