A proposal to phase out Overland Park’s smaller neighborhood pools in favor of larger water parks made the biggest splash at an open house on the city’s long-range parks plan — but not necessarily in a good way.
The pool part of the city’s first comprehensive Parks Master Plan definitely drew the most attention at an open house last week at the Matt Ross Community Center. Although the meeting was set to get citizen input on all of the various trails, playgrounds and shelter houses, officials at the aquatics station fielded the most questions and concerns of the approximately 45 people attending.
Monica Gfoeller of Overland Park said closing the smaller pools such as Marty Pool near her home would be a mistake because small pools are friendlier to the youngest children learning to swim. The large water parks are like a “cattle farm,” she said. “You just can’t keep track of everybody.”
The aquatics part of the master plan, drawn up by Ballard King & Associates of Highlands Ranch, Colo., envisions a future centered on three regional aquatics centers — Young’s Pool at 77th Street and Antioch Road, Tomahawk Ridge at 119th Street west of Metcalf and a yet-to-be-built center south of 151st Street. Young’s and Tomahawk Ridge would be expanded, with competitive swimming and an improved children’s pool at Young’s and possible new slides and other features at Tomahawk Ridge.
The small neighborhood pools would still get routine maintenance, but would be closed when major repairs are called for. Planners put the life expectancy of those pools at one to two years for Roe Pool at 104th Street and Roe Avenue, three to five years at Marty Pool, 74th Street and Conser Avenue, and over 10 years at Bluejacket and Stonegate pools.
People who disliked the idea of small pools closing said they enjoyed the quieter atmosphere of the neighborhood pools. Malinda Sutton of Overland Park said she takes her children, ages 9, 7 and 5 to Roe Pool nearly every day it’s open. “It’s in a beautiful park setting. It’s just a lovely place to swim,” she said.
If the city closes Roe Pool, she said, “I’d be mad for a while. I don’t know where we would go. There’s not any other pool I would enjoy swimming at.”
Mark and Cynthia Cockriel also felt betrayed by the plans to close Roe. A few years ago, the city had promised to redo the Roe and Stonegate pools, Cynthia said. Stonegate got its promised renovation and Roe was supposed to be redone last year. When this new plan surfaced, she said, “people just went crazy.”
Roe Pool’s park setting along Indian Creek Trail makes it a great place to ride to and from on bikes, she said. And it better serves young families and senior citizens who want a quieter place.
Gfoeller had similar feelings about the Marty Pool. Early in the meeting, she tried to convince the officials to consider keeping Marty Pool open as a facility geared to younger children.
Not everyone’s objections had to do with the small pools.
Judy McDonald of Overland Park said she is excited about the aquatics plan in general but wishes the city would consider building an indoor pool for competitive swimmers. McDonald’s two sons are on swim teams in high school and college, and her daughter is a recreational swimmer, she said.
“Competitive swimming changed my kids’ study habits and physiques,” she said. And competitive swimming lanes are in short supply in the area.
The Parks Master Plan is meant as a guide for the city to use for future development. Approval does not necessarily mean the small pools will close, but it signifies the direction the city intends to go. The final decision is up to the city council.
The final version of the plan will be presented to the council and planning commission Oct. 15, with a final vote expected Oct. 31.