Berkeley, California, community members wore swim gear – including goggles, flippers and towels – at city council meetings to advocate for extended hours at the city’s West Campus Pool, local news website Berkeleyside reported Monday (photos in the original article).
Residents have lobbied since 2017 to get the pool opened year-round, as opposed to only having limited hours in the summer season. The movent started with a petition that garnered 200 signatures in its first week.
Supporters began to email, call, and write to City Council, and additionally filed public information requests and spoke at council meetings, according to Berkleyside. Their work got the attention of the city manager, who wrote a report “assessing the feasibility of keeping the West Campus Pool open year-round.”
The pool is one of two functioning facilities leased from the Berkeley Unified School District and operated by the city’s parks department, down from four a decade ago. West Campus Pool (in West Berkeley, about two miles from Cal’s aquatics center, for reference) is warmer than the other option, which community members argued makes it ideal for seniors and children; it is also flat across the bottom, making it optimal for water aerobics. The other facility already open year-round is King Pool (in North Berkeley), which was being allocated about $600,000 compared to West Campus’ $240,000.
“The question we’ve asked all along is, how did you decide which pool gets the money?” lifelong swimmer Rebecca Burke told Berkeleyside. “This community deserves attention too. This is about providing equitable services to all parts of Berkeley.”
Last month, at its 2020-21 budget meeting, the City Council allocated an additional $292,127 to West Pool, which will allow it to open four hours a day, seven days a week, year-round. The exact hours have yet to be determined as the pool serves multiple demographics; approximately 40 community members, many of whom have divergent schedules, met to discuss the issue last week.
According to Berkeleyside, a majority at the meeting supported the idea of hosting free swim lessons for “disadvantaged kids and their parents,” and others recommended alternative ways to generate revenue, including pool movie nights.
“We need to develop programs here that will really nurture this neighborhood, which is neglected in this town,” longtime pool-goer Mori Costantino said. “The black and brown community isn’t represented at this meeting, but they are a really important part of this. I really want this to be accessible for them.”