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    Message to the Community from BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight

    I cannot in good conscience justify spending scarce taxpayer resources for a swimming pool that only five people walked to and used on a daily basis. I am writing to set the record straight about the imminent removal of the Gus Young swimming pool.

    BREC’s 2004 Imagine Your Parks plan evaluated the entire park system and the BREC Commission approved a separate aquatics plan which recommended modernizing some pools and creating an aquatic system that offered more options in strategic locations, including learn to swim pools, splash pads and centrally located Liberty Lagoon Water Park. The plan, prepared by a national aquatic firm familiar with best practices, also included partnering with other agencies to enable us to use resources more efficiently.

    The closing of pools at Baringer, Webb, Jefferson Highway and Gus Young Neighborhood Parks and the renovation of pools at Howell, City-Brooks and Anna T. Jordan Community Parks are part of that plan. The plan recommended having aquatic features only in community parks which serve a much larger population than neighborhood parks like Gus Young. In 2012, BREC was forced to close the 50-year old pool because it did not meet safety and health requirements and could not be repaired.

    BREC places a high priority on teaching children to swim and continues to expand its partnership with the YMCA. Together we offer swimming lessons at BREC and YMCA pools and have created a free water safety program taught to students and parents during the school year. We are proud to say that in addition to teaching more than 475 kids to swim last year hundreds more have signed up for swimming lessons again this summer.

    BREC transports hundreds of children from our summer camps to our pools and to Liberty Lagoon on a daily basis. Outside camps also use those locations. Using cost savings from the closure of neighborhood pools, and working with the YMCA, we created a “Splash Pass” which offers children the ability to swim at YMCA pools at BREC prices during our public swim times. Liberty Lagoon, in its fifth season, continues to thrive, frequently reaching maximum attendance levels and serving people throughout the parish.

    More than that, BREC places a high priority on serving youth and teens across the parish in order to offer healthy, safe, structured activity and protect them from exposure to violence or juvenile delinquency. Here is a snapshot of programs currently offered:

    • BREC on the Geaux serves 35 locations with 29 in the inner city area servicing approximately 8,000 youth and teens since January.
    • BREC offers 61 Recreation classes and programs for youth in the inner city areas and 28 programs for teens.
    • BREC offers 41 summer camps with 17 in the inner city area. 2015 summer camp enrollment has increased by nearly 1,400 children for recreation camps alone.
    • BREC hosted 16 Community Events in the inner city area since January servicing approximately 4,675 people.
    • BREC’s sports leagues such as baseball, football and basketball have served approximately 10,497 youth and teens since January.
    • BREC’s Outdoor Adventure serves 236 youth and teens with programs.
    • BREC’s Golf Department offered 72 programs targeted to youth and teens through the First Tee and other programs.
    • BREC Belfair Teen Center has served approximately 75 teens through a job training program.

    Later this summer, BREC will present several options to replace the 50-year old pool at Gus Young at a public meeting. Community leaders have asked us to consider building a splash pad which would require a significant amount of private funding and Commission approval since it is counter to our Aquatics plan. BREC simply cannot afford to build splash pads or pools in neighborhood parks. If a sufficient amount of private funding is not located, we have ideas on how to enhance this active park and the many events held there now.

    BREC remains committed to serving the entire parish while making the best use possible of limited taxpayer dollars that fund more than 180 parks. We also remain committed to partnering with the YMCA and schools to teach children to swim, offer quality recreation programs for youth and teens during after school and out of school breaks and creating a healthier and safer community.

    Carolyn McKnight
    BREC Superintendent
    cmcknight@brec.org

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    1,500 petition to keep Gus Young pool

    Plans are underway to permanently close the community pool at the BREC Gus Young Avenue Park in East Baton Rouge on August 1. Public opposition is increasing, but is it enough to convince the BREC board or  superintendent Carol McKnight  to reconsider closure and re-allocate $400,000  from BREC’s $69 million annual budget to preserve the historic pool and clubhouse?

    Community leaders and residents said they want a pool and are not interested in other option–not even a splashpad that would require $500,000 in donations. Longtime activist Elwin “Bobby” Burns said he has collected more than 1,500 signatures petitioning to restore and open the pool. He will submit the petition to the Mayor’s office and Metro Councilmembers. Burns is concerned that the children have swimming opportunities within walking distance of their homes. “BREC has four dog parks!” Burns wrote in an email to The Drum asking if funds that were once identified for Gus Young park renovations had been transferred to fund the parish’s new dog parks.

    The pool was closed three summers ago for repairs about the same time the Liberty Water Park was built in Independence Park. When the pool was closed the 39 kids who signed up for swimming lessons were referred to other pools which were 2 miles away. Then, the cost of swimming in the Gus Young pool was $1.25 per person. The cost of Liberty Waterpark was $8 for people shorter than 4 feet and $10 for taller people. Today, the Gus Young residents have are given the option to learn to swim at the nearby A.C Lewis YMCA pool on South Foster Drive, which is located about 2 miles away. BREC said 103 people have signed up for the swimming lessons.

    Residents also have the option of swimming at BREC’s Howell Community Park Pool on Winnborne Ave., which is also 2 miles away, or at BREC’s Anna T. Jordan pool which is located farther in North Baton Rouge.

    For many Gus Young residents, this is not a viable option said Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle who represents the area. According to the Rev. Richard Andrus, pastor of St. Paul Apostle Catholic Church on Gus Young, his congregation overwhelmingly supports keeping the pool instead of permanently closing it or replacing it with a splashpad. He will join Marcelle in meeting with BREC leaders.

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