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Joe Henderson: Re-open community pools in West Tampa and Seminole Heights

Baldomero Lopez Swimming Pool at Macfarlane Park, as it looked in 2007 before it was closed by the City of Tampa as a result of budget cuts.  [Times (2007)]
Baldomero Lopez Swimming Pool at Macfarlane Park, as it looked in 2007 before it was closed by the City of Tampa as a result of budget cuts. [Times (2007)]
Published Jun. 6

You may not have noticed, but the weather has been a bit toasty for the last couple of weeks. Rumor has it Tampa gets hot and humid this time of year, but don't fret. Six or seven months from now it will be back in the 80s, and we can break out the sweatshirts and sweaters.

Right now though, 'tis the season for just plain sweat.

It's the perfect time for chilling in a swimming pool if you have one, or heading to a neighborhood pool if you don't. Kids are out of school now, too. Passing some time at the local pool with friends seems like a wholesome activity to me, the kind in which communities across the country participate.

It may seem like every home in Hillsborough County comes equipped with a swimming pool in the back yard, but, of course, that's not true.

So, yeah, Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco had a righteous point when he said, as he did to Tampa Bay Times reporter Paul Guzzo, that it's time to bring the neighborhood Baldomero Lopez Pool back to the West Tampa area he represents.

That pool, along with the Angus R. Goss Memorial Pool in Seminole Heights, was shut down and filled with dirt a decade ago when the city decided it wasn't attracting enough people and was too expensive to keep open.

Goss, a Hillsborough High graduate, died in 1943 during World War II. The pool was named in his honor, and now residents have been pushing for more than a year to bring it back. They have a Facebook page, petition drives, banners, basically anything they can do to raise awareness.

At least on awareness, they have succeeded. The issue is front and center before city officials. It should be.

The city has about a dozen public pools, but not all of them are convenient to neighborhoods. Also, not everyone can afford to join clubs like the YMCA, where they can swim and socialize.

The social aspect is important.

These pools become gathering places for special events or just hanging out to beat the heat, but they enhance a community in more ways than that. The Goss pool, for instance, could be used by the Hillsborough High School swim team for practice and meets. Senior citizens could participate in water aerobics classes. Kids could take swimming lessons.

Obviously, budgets were tight when these pools were closed. They were expensive to maintain, and city budget planners were grappling with the effects of the Great Recession. Something had to give, but a lot of things have changed in these neighborhoods since then.

People are moving in and renovating homes, new businesses are opening, and a true sense of community has developed.

As always, it will come down to money.

It would take an estimated $1 million to renovate and reopen the Goss pool. That's not chump change in a city where the fight for every public dollar is ongoing. We know about Tampa's transportation issues and infrastructure needs. These things are expensive, and, oh yeah, hurricane season just started.

But I'm also big on things that make a community feel more like a home, where kids have good memories of growing up. Neighborhood pools like the ones we're talking about are links in that chain.

We have the effect that city parks that were opened or renovated in the last few years had on their surrounding neighborhoods and the greater community. For instance, developers would probably have killed to get their mitts on the prime downtown real estate where Curtis Hixon Park sits, but not every inch of the city should go to the highest bidder.

It's the same idea with these community pools.

Nothing says Florida better than the sound of laughter and splashing water on a warm summer day.

Make it happen.

Contact Joe Henderson at JoeHTampa@gmail.com.

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