By Noah Dawson
Last week, I attended a meeting hosted by the North Heights Association about the closing of the Thompson Park Pool. Many members of the north side community were in attendance, and they expressed their opinions loud and clear. If I learned anything from that meeting, it was this: to that community, the Thompson Park Pool was much more than just a pool, it was a central fixture of the community. It was a place where children, from toddlers to teenagers, could safely spend time during the summer.
Due to the timing, logistics, and budget involved in this closing, there is no reason to expect a new pool will be open in time for summer 2019. City Manager Jared Miller speculated during the meeting that a new pool, if one is built, could be 5 years away. Meanwhile, alternatives some have brought up fall short. The Warford center has a capacity far below the number who had used the Thompson Park Pool. A splash pad, like those installed in some other city parks, would not be a suitable alternative for the wide variety of age ranges who had used the Thompson Park Pool. Other city pools don't have the geographical proximity to the residents of the community the Thompson Park Pool has, making them far less available to residents of the north side.
Again, the value this pool had to the north side community cannot be understated. It's not just sad that it will be gone, it's devastating to the people in the community it served for nearly a century.
That said, I don't doubt it needs to be closed. It's an old asset that is dangerous and in a state where it is probably beyond fixable. However, it seems that this fact was understood, though not explicitly, for decades. The number of gallons leaking out of the pool each month seem to have long been known to the parks department.
Why do I bring this up? Because our leaders are inexplicably going into this blind, without any real plans of any real substitute program being in place beforehand to provide the vital function the pool had played in the community. Having some sort of all age program in the vicinity with the capacity of the pool wouldn't just be nice, it is an absolute necessity. It is perhaps one of the biggest failures of our city leadership in recent years that absolutely no plans were yet in place.
Of course, the only real long term solution is probably a new pool, as any alternatives will require some tradeoff. Still, to the fact that zero contingency plans were in place is 100% inexcusable and starkly illustrates the disconnect our leaders have with the north side community.
Whether a solution is found or not, one thing is clear. We the people of Amarillo need to vote the council out this upcoming May.