In a 2011 survey of U.S. cities by Trust for Public Land, Austin ranked #11 nationally in terms of public pools per capita, with 4.5 public swimming pools per 100,000 residents (based on pools deeper than 4 feet). This is great news and no surprise given our plethora of public pools. The oldest public pool in Texas (Deep Eddy) is even here in Austin.
However, since the Trust for Public Land survey was conducted, Austin has fallen farther behind on the list and is at risk of plummeting even further down the list if current trends continue. Our population is booming (now at 843,000 residents), but the Parks Department has recently been closing public pools rather than adding them, due to budget cuts adopted by City Council. It seems that every budget cycle our pools continue to be on the chopping block, or hours are cut back more. When you tally up the public pools listed on the City's website, we are down to 31 pools. These cuts put Austin now at 3.6 public pools per 100,000 residents, or #20. Are more cuts on the way?
In case you are curious, the top ten cities from the Trust for Public Land survey are:
- Washington, D.C.
Let's take a sunny, hot day in July. It's 10am and you want to take your family swimming at a nearby Austin public pool. Your options for a morning swim, depending on where you live?
- East Austin*: 1 pool (only Martin--the other pools are only open in the afternoons)
- South Austin: 5 pools (Barton Springs, Big Stacy, Dick Nichols, Dittmar, Garrison)
- West Austin: 5 pools (Deep Eddy, Ramsey, Reed, Shipe, and West Enfield)
- North Austin: 5 pools (Balcones, Canyon Vista, Murchison, Northwest, Walnut Creek)
- East Austin: 0 pools
- South Austin: 2 pools
- West Austin: 1 pool
- North Austin: 1 pool