An empty, 40-ounce bottle of Hurricane beer lays poolside at Monkiewicz Recreation Center in Port Richmond.
This empty beer bottle is another sign of the lack of funding Philadelphia’s public swimming pools receive, impacting a range of things from simple clean-up to staying open during summer months. According to the “City Budget Breakdown,” only one percent of the City of Philadelphia’s annual budget that is under the mayor’s control goes to the city’s Parks and Recreation department. With 72 public pools in Philadelphia, this is clearly an area needing more funding from City Hall. But there is still hope.
On March 18, Mayor Michael Nutter kick started the second year of the “Splash and Summer Fund.” Leadership from the city’s Parks and Recreation department have teamed up with The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Recreation Advisory Council for this funding raising cause. Money donated to the “Fund” will be used to open pools throughout Philadelphia. By May 31, the goal is to collect $600,000 through commercial, community, and individual donations. Currently, the campaign has collected over $200,000. The city plans to open 69 functioning pools out of the 72 total, according to Alain Joinville, public affairs coordinator of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Last year after raising $430,000, only 49 of the 69 pools were able to open through “Fund” efforts. In order for pools to open, they must meet certain criteria. The four areas reviewed last year in deciding which pools would be able to open were: age and condition; access and location; attendance and pool size. Attendance refers to pools with the highest amount of traffic during the previous two summers. Size refers to physically large pools that are able to accommodate additional amounts of people. Age and condition of pools refers to pools that are in good condition and have been recently renovated, while access and location refers to the accessibility of the pool is to the public.
The staff of recreational facilities located in Port Richmond understand the importance of summer swimming. “I think it’s very important to have a pool open,” said John Cooney, recreation leader at Cohocksink “Cohox” Recreation Center. “It gives kids something to do. It keeps them off the street and we can keep an eye on them.” Cohox was one of the pools that opened last summer and will also open this summer. Although the Cohox pool was open, there were still casualties in its water related programming. The center’s “Swim for Life” program was canceled but this had no effect on public swim hours.
While most of the patrons of the recreation centers are Port Richmond residents, those who live in the surrounding neighborhoods often frequent them. Christine Duffield, a Fishtown resident uses Port Richmond facilities more than those in her neighborhood. Her son has baseball practice at Samuel Recreation Center and during the summer she takes her children to the Cohox pool. “That [Cohox] seems to be the best,” said Duffield. “Parents go so it’s nice. They enforce rules like no running and no jumping.” One word, “sad,” describes the way her 8-year-old son Kyle would feel if the pools could not open during the summer.
Samuel Recreation Center, in addition to Cohox, will open its pool for the community this summer. However, this pool was initially in the budget to open last year as well as this year. Since Samuel does not depend on this fund to open its pool, the recreation center is organizing fundraisers to contribute money to the fund. “We’re [the community] benefiting from it so we’re going to try and raise some money,” said Recreation Leader Jamie Lohse. They will be selling “Samuel Recreation Center” T-shirts as well as having an auction on June 4.
The pool at Monkiewicz Recreation center, located on Richmond Street, unfortunately was not open last year. It is one of the three non-functioning pools in Philadelphia and as a result will remain closed this summer. While the other two Port Richmond pools have been able to open and will do so again, Monkiewicz is struggling.
Linda Underwood comments on the poor conditions of the Monkiewicz playground while watching her granddaughter and family friend play. “Even the equipment is awful,” said Underwood. “The paint is chipping. It’s not safe for the kids.” Underwood is far from enthusiastic about the mayor pool funding raising effort. “I don’t see any money coming here,” she said. Without an open pool in the summer, she worries children will have nothing to do. However, as there are two other pools in the area, this should not be a problem. After all, the pools at Samuel and Cohox Recreation Centers were chosen to remain open because of their ability to accommodate additional swimmers.
Starting and maintaining this fund for a second year is vital in keeping the the city’s pools open for their communities. The residents of Port Richmond strongly believe in the right for their children to have swimming pools available to them in the summer. “The kids need somewhere to go,” said Mark Daniels, a six-year Port Richmond resident. While some are not aware of the “Splash and Summer Fund,” they feel as though Port Richmond is not benefiting from it. Daniels went on to say, “They can find money to keep these pools open.” The $200,000 that has already been collected for the “Fund” proves that there is money in the city but many Port Richmond residents wonder City Hall can’t find ample funds within its budget to enable children to enjoy pools during the summer.