The only public pool in Kansas City, KS, Parkwood Pool on Quindaro Boulevard, will sit empty for another year due to safety reasons surrounding the pandemic. Unified Government officials say they have also struggled to find lifeguards to staff the pool.
Community members organized to protest the UG’s decision and want the city to re-open, renovate and upgrade the more-than-50-year-old pool.
Wanda Garrett, a KCK community member, said she remembers going to the pool as a child and that it looks just about the same as when it first opened.
“That could be a good and bad thing,” Garrett said. “It means there’s no progress. The pool needs some loving, to be taken care of and needs to be staffed.”
Garrett said she’s fortunate enough to own her own pool, but she knows many families in the Quindaro area cannot afford a pool. That’s why she and her family braved the heat and joined more than 100 at a community-led protest to reopen the pool, held on June 18.
David Grigsby, who organized the protest, owns the Parkwood Barber Shop across the street from the pool and he can’t stand to see it closed for another year.
“This is the only thing the kids have for the summer,” Grigsby said. “The kids have been in the house almost two years. They want to get out and swim.”
Andrew Davis, a candidate running for 8th District Commissioner said investing in parks and youth activities is part of a solution to keep the city safer and possibly prevent crime.
“I think we really need to ask, ‘are we doing everything we can to get lifeguards?’” Davis said. “I think we have to ask what it looks like to partner with the school districts about how we recruit and how do we get teens interested in being a life guard.”
Community members like Terri Wallace say they want to see swimming lessons in local schools. She said she would like to see the UG Parks and Recreation Department do more to reach the Quindaro community for recruitment.
Angel Obert, assistant director of the UG Parks and Recreation Department says she recognizes how important pools are to the community, “especially this community,” Obert said. “But I’ll be honest, we’re extremely short-staffed across the entire UG. I’m having a hard time getting staff for summer camps I have going on.”
Just as other businesses are struggling to hire, the UG is too. Their website has more than 50 open job postings.
The UG is currently offering a paid lifeguard training program to encourage youth in the area to get certified for 2022. So far, they’ve only had one person apply.
Grigsby and other community members at the protest said they want the lifeguards to be trained for this year, not next year. “What are our kids going to do this summer?” asked Grigsby to the crowd standing along Quindaro Boulevard.
As far as upgrading the pool, Obert said that’s an ongoing conversation.
“Unfortunately, if we were to touch this pool, there’s all sorts of ADA requirements that we would have to meet and that becomes very expensive,” she said. “At that point, you’re paying for another pool, so it’s really challenging.”
Funding for new KCK public pools have not made their way into the city’s budget so far.
Grigsby is encouraging community members to bring a padlock and hang it on the pool fence to represent their support for the pool reopening. So far, the fence has more than 10 padlocks of support.
The Unified Government has a paid lifeguard training program. To learn more, visit: www.wycokck.org/getattachment/38ea169a-a46a-48c2- a020-dc3eee5cc194/attachment.aspx.