Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Austin's Proposed Cuts to Public Pools

It was disheartening to hear that the City of Austin's Parks and Recreation Department is once again considering closing our city swimming pools and cutting back pool hours. Public pools are one of the best public services that the City can provide for Austin children. On top of that, the pool closures are targeting East Austin, with its historic disparities in access to public services.

I blogged about the issue of public pool access back in June 2013. Northeast Austin (north of 290), with its very high concentrations of low-income households already has zero public pools. If the City moves forward with its plan to close the Mabel Davis pool, Southeast Austin (the whole area south of Riverside all the way past William Cannon—likewise fairly poor) will have only one public pool. Meanwhile wealthier areas of the city have year-round access to public pools.

Even though Austin has fared quite well in the annual Trust for Public Land survey for public pool access, we continue to fall in the rankings.  In 2011, we ranked #11 amongst U.S. cities in terms of public pools per capita. Now we are at #16.  The proposed cuts, if they go through, will push us farther down the list.

Our population is booming (Austin was the fastest growing city last year), our tax base is exploding, and the summers are still sweltering. Shouldn't the City be figuring out ways to expand access to public pools?  As the Council dives into the City budget this summer, let's hope the City paddles away from its public pool closure plans.

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