© 2023 Louisville Public Media

Public Files:
89.3 WFPL · 90.5 WUOL-FM · 91.9 WFPK

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact info@lpm.org or call 502-814-6500
89.3 WFPL News | 90.5 WUOL Classical 91.9 WFPK Music | KyCIR Investigations
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Stream: News Music Classical

The only pool in west Louisville is closed for the summer. Here’s why that matters.

Algonquin pool, the only public pool in west Louisville, is closed for the summer for renovations.
WDRB
Algonquin pool, the only public pool in west Louisville, is closed for the summer for renovations.

After the recent closure of the Algonquin pool, many west Louisville residents are left without a local pool, amid sweltering heat and limited alternatives.

For families in west Louisville, the Algonquin public pool has been a community fixture since 1955, and a respite for kids and adults looking to cool off in the summer months.

But weeks after Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation closed the pool for renovations that officials say will start by Labor Day, the city’s plan to distribute free family YMCA passes to West End residents is in limbo.

Kevin Trager, a spokesperson for Mayor Craig Greenberg, said Metro Parks may be able to use funds from the next budget, which begins July 1, to purchase summer passes. That means residents may not get them in their hands until next month, and schools reopen in August.

Algonquin pool is surrounded by the majority-Black neighborhoods of Parkland, Park DuValle, Hallmark and California.

It costs $3 a day for patrons 13 and over, and $2 a day for those 12 and under.

Metro Council Member Tammy Hawkins, a District 1 Democrat, said she had requested the administration provide swim passes for her constituents as soon as possible.

“Kids need structured programs. Showing life skills through sports, giving kids direction is important. I wish work on this had started months earlier with some notice, so it just doesn't kind of blow up in our face a week or two before school,” Hawkins said.

But Hawkins said she feels Greenberg’s office and Metro Parks representatives aren’t communicating well enough with residents about the issue.

“I think the city doesn’t seem to understand the severity of this situation that we’ve had to face over and over again,” she said.

Staffing and budget issues have led Louisville Metro to close the pool in recent years. This time, however, officials say the facility needs renovations due to vandalism and the present conditions of the pool.

Limiting access

Patricia Newby was 11 years old when she took her first dip at the Algonquin pool, the closest public pool to her home in the Portland neighborhood. That’s where she learned to love the water.

Forty-five years later, she’s an aqua Zumba instructor at the pool. She said she’s one of the lucky ones who had access to a pool and learned how to swim at an early age, which not every child or adult does.

It hurts to see the pool close and leave kids who want to swim with no options or alternatives, she said.

“The message that it sends to us is that we don't matter. That we're Black and we don't swim. And they’re wrong,” she said.

Newby, also a former TARC employee, said she’s glad the city is trying to get families free swim passes but pointed out the lack of transportation options.

“These kids are walking to Algonquin. How are they going to get to the Y on 18th and Broadway, or Kentucky Kingdom all the way out in Clinton?” she said.

It’s not the first time Algonquin park pool faced closures at the end of the school year. In April 2019, the city closed four public pools across the city: Camp Taylor, Algonquin, Sun Valley and Fairdale.

The 2019 pool closures were announced after then-Mayor Greg Fischer cited a $25-million hole in the fiscal year budget due to the Metro government having to pay the state for city employees’ pensions.

And in June 2021, the city briefly closed the pool during its regularly scheduled hours due to lifeguard shortages, according to a statement issued by Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation. WHAS-11 reported that residents and community members were not informed of the pool’s closure beforehand.

Metro Council allocated $6 million last year toward rebuilding Algonquin's pool and Camp Taylor Memorial Park's Norton Pool in southeast Louisville, which is also closed this summer. Trager, with the mayor’s office, said the Algonquin pool hadn’t been renovated since it was first built, and expects work to start on both pools after summer break. He said the Algonquin pool will definitely not reopen this year.

“There's been money allotted from every administration just to put Band-Aids on Algonquin,” Hawkins said.

Learning to swim safely

With two public pools closed this season, some residents could face more obstacles in learning swimming and water safety skills — particularly Black residents, due to the closure of Algonquin.

According to the USA Swimming Foundation, 64% of Black Americans have little to no swimming ability, compared to 40% of white Americans.

And the Centers for Disease Control says Black people drown at a rate 1.5 times higher than white people. Black children ages 10 to 14 drown nearly eight times as often as white children.

YMCA of Greater Louisville CEO Steve Tarver said having access and getting to a pool is important, but swimming is a skill often passed down generations. He said children may not learn how to swim or swim safely at a public pool if they haven’t been taught by a parent or adult.

“It’s about what kind of family support do they have, how fearful are the parents and if they pass that fear down and so forth. If there's an achievement or learning goals aspect of swimming, then you've got a formula for building successful citizens and safe neighborhoods,” he said.

The YMCA of Greater Louisville announced an initiative to improve access to swim lessons with free Safety Around Water clinics for racially and economically disadvantaged communities.

The YMCA will host three free clinics for parents, children and adults to learn about water safety and improve their skills. Advance registration is recommended.

  • Republic Bank Foundation YMCA – June 10 from 4 to 7 p.m.
  • Shawnee Park Pool – June 16 from 4 to 7 p.m.
  • Central High School – July 8 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Where can Louisvillians swim this summer?

Pools:

  • Nelson Hornbeck Park (709 Fairdale Road) is open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Admission for those 13 and older is $3; ages 12 and younger is $2.
  • Sun Valley Park (6505 Bethany Lane) is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday to Sunday. It is closed on Wednesday. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by someone at least 13 years old. Admission for those 13 and older is $3; ages 12 and younger is $2.
  • The Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center (201 Reservoir Road) is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Monday to Friday, and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $3 for ages 3-12; $8 for ages 13-54; and $4.50 for those 55 and older.

Interactive spraygrounds (free):

Spraypads (free):

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

Can we count on your support?

Louisville Public Media depends on donations from members – readers like you – for the majority of our funding. You can help make the next story possible with a donation of $10 or $20. We'll put your gift to work providing news and music for our diverse community.