COLUMBIA — Patrons of the Douglass Park Family Aquatic Center will pay less to use the pool this summer after the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department reduced admission to the pool on North Providence Road to $1.
At the end of last summer, the department reduced admission for twilight swimming between 6 to 8 p.m. from $1.75 to $1. This change was well-received by First Ward residents last year, said Mike Hood, director of Columbia Parks and Recreation.
The city considered making the change permanent last summer, however, it could not immediately enact the lower price because all recreation fees are set by city ordinance and must be proposed in the city budget, he said.
“After much consideration and experimentation we went back to the City Council with a recommendation for a reduced fee in August, and they approved it,” Hood said.
The Parks and Recreation Department hopes the price reduction will stimulate the pool’s low attendance rate. Last summer, the pool had only 3,636 visitors, while Oakland Family Aquatic Center had nearly eight times as many.
Low attendance was not the only factor that the City Council took into consideration. The council hoped to make the facility at Douglass Park more accessible to lower-income families.
“It is certainly a small step in the right direction for the city, but it would be nice if all the pools were accessible to low-income families,” said Mary Hussmann, former organizer for Grassroots Organizing.
Grassroots Organizing works to make public events and services more available for low-income people.
This summer the newly opened spraygrounds at Stephens Lake Park and Flat Branch Park will both be free of charge.
The spraygrounds at Flat Branch Park were built as part of the second phase of the park and funded in part by grants and donations. They were also funded by the one-eighth-cent Parks and Recreation sales tax that funded last year’s renovations at the Douglass Park pool.
Parks and Recreation also hopes to build spraygrounds at Douglass Park, but Hood said that the project may have to wait until the 2009 fiscal year to be completed. The budget for that year will go before the city council in August. If approved, construction on the spraygrounds could begin in spring of 2009.
“You can’t do all of it in one year, and the pool renovation seemed most critical,” said Hood. “There was some money left over, and that is going to upgrade the bathhouse, which is 60 years old.”
Though plans are still tentative, access to the Douglass Park spraygrounds would be included with admission to the pool. While the pool is closed during the year, admission to the spraygrounds would be free.
Admission to the spraygrounds at Stephens and Flat Branch Park is free year-round, but Hood said he does not think those at Douglass Park should be during the summer.
“We want to make the spraygrounds available to pool users during the time the pool is open,” Hood said.
Though the price reduction helps accessibility for low-income families, Hussmann said she does not think it solves the prevalent economic discrimination she said the city practices.
“It is not just one pool going down in price that is going to make that big a difference,” she said.