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Pool intruders cause Tampa officials concerns

Members of the Academy Prep step team pass the fountains at the remodeled Cuscaden Park pool, after performing at its reopening in 2005. The pool, at 2800 15th St., was first opened in 1937 but closed in 1998 in a state of disrepair and obsolescence.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2005)

Members of the Academy Prep step team pass the fountains at the remodeled Cuscaden Park pool, after performing at its reopening in 2005. The pool, at 2800 15th St., was first opened in 1937 but closed in 1998 in a state of disrepair and obsolescence.

TAMPA — City officials hope this party's over.

Trespassers, they say, have been swimming in two closed city pools recently, leaving behind cigarette butts and empty alcohol bottles and even feces.

Officials suspect the intruders are kids — or adults acting like kids.

But the consequences are more than just fun and games. Officials fear, someone could drown.

According to a city investigation, culprits bent plastic bars of the fence around the Spicola Family Pool, at 2615 Corrine St., and on numerous occasions have climbed up a wall and over a fence at Cuscaden Park pool, 2900 N 15th St,

Both pools are closed for the season but have not been emptied, due to design issues that require them to remain full year-round.

"Unfortunately it does happen," Tampa's parks and recreation spokeswoman Linda Carlo said of the break-ins. In the past, pool maintenance workers have found evidence of trespassers in city pools after hours in the summer and in seasonal pools before they're emptied.

But this time pool workers report "horrific" scenes, including feces smeared on slides and decks. "They really are destroying things," Carlo said. Damages at Spicola totalled $1,800. Costs at Cuscaden weren't available earlier this week.

Parks and recreation initiated the investigation with the city's risk management and safety division and Tampa police.

Five city pools are open year-round and nine more are open during summer. Year-round pools are covered each night at closing, which prevents intruders. Covering the seasonal pools would be expensive, Carlo said — the covers average $40,000 each.

The seasonal pools close at staggered times to accommodate school swim teams at the start of the school year. Three of them — Spicola, Cuscaden and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pools — are kept full of water year-round because their lining is made of a marcite plaster finish that must stay wet, officials said .

Fred George, the city's safety inspector, suggests installing wrought iron fencing with a 2-to-3-feet curve at the top to keep vandals from bending the bars or climbing over.

Carlo's department has asked police to increase patrols around the pools. She suspects no fence can deter determined trespassers.

Trespassing at Cuscaden has been a continual problem, Carlo said.

Kim Headland, president of VM Ybor Neighborhood Association said that during their last monthly cleanup, neighbors noticed graffiti near the pool. It was cleaned this week.

Headland said she wouldn't be surprised to find the gate-crashers are the same group of violators.

"I'm surprised that they're able to get over the fence, up the wall and over the rail," she said.

She says the Cuscaden pool, built in the '30s, is the jewel of the neighborhood and should be protected.

Wrought-iron fencing would be great, she said, if it replaces the current chain link surrounding the pool.

Yet too many fences don't make the best of neighbors.

"It's sad that it's come to that," Headland said.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at (813)226-3431 or eparker@sptimes.com.

Pool intruders cause Tampa officials concerns 10/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009 4:30am]
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