Children splash at the Douglass Park Splash Pad in Middletown. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Community pools phasing out across Butler, Warren counties

Stephanie Credit has spent 18 years watching over Franklin’s Paul E. Fitzgerald Swimming Pool.

Built in 1977, the Olympic-sized pool has been a constant in the life of Franklin residents, including four swim teams and nearby school districts.

“We have a lot of people who have been members of the facility since it opened 40 years ago,” Credit, the manager of the pool, said. “I think if they shut it down it would have been devastating.”

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Two years ago, the Franklin City Council looked seriously at replacing the pool, which had fallen into disarray with broken concrete and crushed pipes. Had the idea gone through, the community pool would have joined the list of many shut down within the last decade, including Middletown’s Sunset Pool and Douglass Pool.

Instead the decision was made to repair it, and that $190,000 renovation came at a time when surrounding communities are favoring a less expensive option: splash pads.

Middletown has installed two splash pads; one each at Douglass Park and Smith Park.

Hamilton installed three splash pads in 2014, according Hamilton Parks Conservancy Director Steve Timmer. One at the Benninghofen playground, L.J. Smith (North End) park, and Jim Grimm Park. Timmer’s team has since installed three more.

Closing the Hamilton pools has been a large monetary relief for the city, Timmer said. Maintenance, labor and utility costs for a splash pad add up to about $60,000 per year, whereas a community pool can be in the hundreds of thousands.

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“It’s not cost effective to have more than one community pool,” Timmer said. “The spray parks are easier to operate because they don’t require lifeguards and all the water just drains.”

Timmer has seen the “spraygrounds” as a huge success, saying that every park is nearly full on hot days. However, Credit, who has been a teacher for the past 25 years in addition to pool manager, doesn’t agree that it would be the best thing for her community.

“I don’t think splash pads give kids as many activities as far as swimming,” Credit said. “A pool gives them options where they can still have different ages.”

Credit’s son, Trevor, has spent most of his life at the pool, from first learning how to swim to now being the assistant manager. He started working at just 14 years old at the concession stand and eventually became a lifeguard.

In the past nine years, Trevor has developed his own sense of what it takes to maintain a public pool and has come to know what works best for the community. What doesn’t necessarily work, he said, is a splash pad.

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Inconsistent water flow of a splash pad and less filtration can lead to sanitation issues, he said, and mold can become a problem. Lack of lifeguards can also mean lack of supervision, leading to more possible injuries.

Trevor’s proposal tries to combine the best of both worlds.

“I think that if a splash pad was used in conjunction with a pool, that would be great,” Trevor said.

That’s just what the City of Mason plans to do.

According to Assistant City Manager Jennifer Heft, the City of Mason recently discovered that part of the Lou Eves Municipal Pool is leaking, and the foundation is starting to give way. The 23-year-old pool was once a state of the art facility with its zero-depth entry for children and mushroom spout, but it’s time to look at redeveloping its amenities.

Mason City Council has put a priority on drafting a new design for the 387,000-gallon pool. Part of which might include replacing the deteriorating playground area with a splash pad.

“I think it would be great because when they do the guard breaks or adult swim, it’s great for the kids to have a place to go,” Heft said.

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