A rally is planned for Saturday morning to show community opposition to the closing of McAdams Park swimming pool, one of two city pools that will remain closed this summer under the new city aquatics plan.
The rally, organized by members of the Sedgwick County Democratic Women, will be from 8 to 9 a.m. at the McAdams pool, 1329 E. 16th St.
One of the event organizers, Vernette Chance, wrote a letter to the editor about the closing of the pool that ran in The Wichita Eagle on Monday.
From there, she said, the community sort of took over the cause and the rally formed.
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“This thing just developed a life of its own,” Chance said.
Charles McAfee, the architect who designed the aquatic area of McAdams Park in the ’70s, will be in attendance, she said.
Francis Jackson, president of the Sedgwick County Democratic Women, said she wants to encourage the city’s Park and Recreation Department to reconsider its options.
“Some people are upset,” she said. “This is a cross-section of people from Wichita, not just people from the neighborhood. People feel that these community icons, especially architectural ones, need to be saved.”
Jackson said her main concern is that youth in the community, especially ethnic youth, will not have access to a pool or to learn to swim.
McAdams and Edgemoor pools are the first of seven public pools that will close by 2023 and be replaced by splash parks. Aley, College Hill and Harvest pools are the only public pools that are set to remain open indefinitely under the current plan.
Lavonta Williams, City Council member for District 1, which includes the McAdams Park area, said she has heard the concerns of the community and is working to find the best solution, economically and socially.
“McAdams swimming pool is where I grew up,” Williams said. “So, I definitely understand the historic value of that particular swimming pool. And in my former life, I was a physical education teacher. So, I know the importance of teaching our young people to swim and especially our African-American community.”
Nearly 70 percent of African-American youth have little to no swimming ability, according to research from the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis.
McAfee said that statistic is why he’s less concerned with the architectural aspect of the pool’s closing and more concerned with the lack of community access to pools.
“What they’re talking about replacing it with is absurd,” he said. “Little black kids don’t need sprinklers and showers to run through. They can shower at home. But they need to learn how to swim.”
Troy Houtman, director of Wichita Park and Recreation, said the department is attuned to the need for swimming lessons.
Houtman said he encourages anyone wanting to find affordable lessons to look at the city’s aquatics webpage, which has lessons and costs posted for all public pools that currently provide classes. Houtman also said the YMCA offers programs and swimming lessons.
The Wichita Parks Foundation provides scholarships for swim lessons to Wichita youth, he said.
Williams said she’d been in conversations over the past few years about keeping McAdams open.
However, McAdams consistently posted the lowest revenue out of all Wichita public pools and has had the lowest attendance for six consecutive years, according to the city.
Houtman said the city scheduled competitions and events at the pool to boost attendance, but saw no significant increase.
Williams said she hopes McAdams Park can have a pool in the future.
“This hasn’t been easy for me since I did grow up around the park,” Williams said. “I want to preserve this particular pool, so when it’s better economically we can reopen and move forward.”
Houtman said the placement of a new, upgraded pool at McAdams could be a possibility in the future, if the community shows an interest.