Nestled in a grove among oak trees, within earshot of the Fort Worth Zoo, the Forest Park Tiered Pool has served Fort Worth for just under a century. Plans to demolish it and replace it with a new, smaller one are bubbling up with locals.
“They basically want to replace it with a fancy sprinkler system and a few lanes, and if you’ve been to Forest Park Pool you know that’s not going to cut it,” said longtime swimmer Janelle Montgomery.
During the swimming season, she dives two to three times a week to swim laps in one of the eight 50-meter lanes.
The new plan provides for four 25-meter lanes, the main concern of opponents of the plan.
Montgomery and other advocates say the city should do more to preserve a place that is not only functional but historic or at the very least ensure the replacement retains the same footprint.
Parks and Recreation Director Richard Zavala, District 9 City Council member Elizabeth Beck, and several other city staff held a town hall meeting last night to address concerns.
More than 150 people came to express their grievances, bringing their opinions and, in some cases, signs.
Beck set the tone for the evening and moderated the sometimes heated question-and-answer session.
“I want you to hear me when I say that there is a proposed plan for the pool, but that is not the final destination,” she said.
The proposed plan stems from the 2012 Citywide Aquatic Master Plan Update. City council members adopted it to address aging swimming pools and the general lack of aquatic facilities in Fort Worth.
Fort Worth has two public pools to its name, as well as a partnership with the City of Fort YMCA of Metro Fort Worth that allows residents to use its outdoor pool.
The city of Dallas, according to its website, offers 17 swimming pools and a city-run water park. The city of Austin has 32 swimming pools and 11 wading pools. The city of El Paso, which has a population about 25% smaller than Fort Worth, opened five public swimming pools this summer, with seven more under construction.
“Somewhere, I guess we took the attention off the ball,” Zavala said.
The plan designated Forest Park’s new pool as an Enhanced Neighborhood Family Aquatic Center, or E-NFAC. For examples of an E-NFAC, look at the Marine Park Pool and Aquatic Center, north of downtown. It includes a recreational swimming area, four 25-meter tower lanes, a hot tub and a slide. The area is 6,875 square feet.
The 2022 bond program sets aside $ 7.5 million for the new Forest Park Pool.
Currently, Forest Park would remain open for the 2022 swimming season, provided there are no mechanical breakdowns, and the new pool would open in 2024.
Forest Park has gone through many changes over the years. In 1967, the city demolished the original swimming pool and built another in the same iconic round shape on the same site.
In 2010, the city closed it due to structural issues. Thanks in part to a grant from the local Christian nonprofit Radler Foundation, the pool reopened in 2013 with a new liner, slide and increased access for people with disabilities.
Critics of the new design have questioned why the city cannot carry out repairs again.
Project manager Scott Penn said repairs would no longer be enough.
“This pool has to go, okay?” He told me in a telephone interview on Thursday.
The liner was replaced after countless gallons of water escaped from the hull. Repairs, Penn said, would only correct, not solve, structural problems.
“You can assume it’s not structurally stable under this pool,” he said. “It would be frivolous and not a very good use of taxpayer dollars to fix this.”
According to a 2007 technical audit, the facility needs $ 3 million in renovations, including replacing the bathhouse, repairing the hull, and installing a new mechanical system.
Chuck Burr disagrees with Penn. The coach and founder of the Ridglea Masters Swimming team said he believed the pool could be repaired if the city figured out how to fund the project.
Burr knows a thing or two about it: He owns Aloha Pool Service, a local business that serves 300 to 400 homes per week, he said.
He showed up to the meeting on Thursday because he grew up swimming there and his team depend on it for training.
“We would be heartbroken if we lost the pool,” Burr said.
The new facility would not accommodate as many swimming lessons, nor so easily the local teams who rent the space for practice.
Between Sigma Swimming and the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition, there were 350 swimming lessons at the Forest Park Pool this summer.
There were 11,984 visits, down from the typical 20,000 visits per season. The summer season has been cut short due to a labor shortage caused by the extension of the school year.
Advocates say the new changes would reduce the capacity of one of the only pools available for public use.
City staff are following the public’s lead, Penn said. He said the city was not opposed to lengthening traffic lanes, but that changing the plan poses financial and practical challenges. Although private donors can intervene, national regulations pose a logistical problem.
To comply with current regulations, a pool the size of Forest Park needs double the current parking lot. This new roadway could have an impact on the surrounding park.
“The public just knows we’re going to replace the pool and is worried, but I think they would also be concerned about the modifications made to the park to accommodate a pool of this size,” Penn said.
The Parks and Recreation Department has hired a consulting firm to calculate the expected cost of the 25-yard turn lanes, 50-meter cover lanes and 53-meter cover lanes and will present the figures to the public once they are completed. he will have them.
Despite the conundrum, Chuck Burr at least left the optimistic reunion. He said he believed city leaders had heard people’s concerns and would find a way to keep the original design of the Forest Park pool.