No matter which of the three options the Wichita City Council may vote on Tuesday, there could be fewer public swimming pools in Wichita.
That’s too bad, though it is partly a reflection of changing interests, as public pools aren’t as well used as they once were.
The City Council is considering three options: Reduce the number of public pools from nine currently to either five, three or one. With each option, the city would replace the closed pools with water playgrounds, which are less expensive to operate and attract more users.
The Wichita Park Board favors the five-pool option, which likely is the best choice. It would leave open the Aley, College Hill, Evergreen and Harvest pools and reopen the Edgemoor pool, which closed in 2012 due to a leak. These pools include those with the highest attendance, and they are somewhat evenly distributed across the city.
The three-pool option would preserve (and renovate) the Aley, College Hill and Harvest pools, which are top three in attendance.
The one-pool option is the worst choice. It would keep open only the College Hill pool, which is in a wealthier neighborhood.
The City Council will consider how much it spends to subsidize each of the pools. But it is also important to consider the social value of the pools. Many lower-income children may never learn how to swim if there is no public pool nearby.
Also, pools shouldn’t necessarily be expected to recoup all their costs. Like parks and libraries, public swimming pools are part of the city’s quality of life.