Far north Fort Worth residents frustrated by lack of swimming pool access

FORT WORTH -- Some far north Fort Worth residents are angry that the Northpark YMCA branch is not included among the YMCA pools that will be open to the public this summer.

The issue reignites a long-simmering frustration after city officials formed a partnership with the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth to build the branch instead of building an area community center, which was promised in a 2004 voter-approved bond package.

"I'm just very frustrated that we're just in never-never land and for years have been forgotten," said Leone Moore, who lives in the Summerfields neighborhood. "We're part of the community, too, and we have never felt that way."

Northpark doesn't have room to add more swimmers. People would have to be turned away if the pool were open to the public, YMCA President Tony Shuman said. The center has 7,564 members.

"We even had to move swimming lessons off site from that pool because it is so crowded during the summertime," he said.

To control costs, six of the city's seven swimming pools will be closed during the summer, but residents can use the McDonald Community, Eastside, E.R. Van Zandt Southwest and Westside YMCA pools from 2 to 4 p.m. from June 5 through Aug. 21.

All are south of Interstate 30.

The only city pool open for the summer, Forest Park, is also south of I-30.

City officials expect a $45 million budget shortfall by the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Closing pools saves $444,961, Mitchell said. So the city asked the YMCA to help and will pay it $7,000.

City and YMCA officials say they chose pools that are near closed city pools and can accommodate more swimmers.

"We were trying to replace the service that was lost," said Melody Mitchell, city parks assistant director.

Moore said the Northpark YMCA pool situation illustrates the larger issue of far north Fort Worth residents feeling neglected.

Northpark, on North Beach Street, opened in 2008. The city and the YMCA split the $5 million construction cost. The result was a 24,000-square-foot complex rather than the 11,682-square-foot one that the city could have built on its own, Mitchell said.

Summerfields residents campaigned for the 2004 bond package because they thought they would get a publicly run community center instead of the private, nonprofit YMCA. The family rate totals $67 a month at the YMCA versus $40 a year for a city community center. But Fort Worth residents pay $61 at Northpark, and the fee covers classes. The community centers charge extra for classes, Mitchell said.

Far north Fort Worth is loosely defined as the area bordered by Denton Highway on the east, Loop 820 on the south, Interstate 35W on the west and Texas 170 on the north. The suburban area identifies closely with the Northeast Tarrant County cities, which have community centers, recreation centers and ample trails and parks. Summerfields, which was started in the 1970s, is among far north Fort Worth's oldest developments.

"I would say that lack of recreational facilities for the young people here is a great concern," said Sandy DeMond, vice president of the Summerfields Neighborhood Association.

Many of the housing developments built in the last several years have neighborhood pools. But the North Fort Worth Alliance neighborhood coalition supports Summerfields, said Colleen Demel, the group's executive director.

"Summerfields really does have a legitimate gripe," Demel said. The Northpark Y "is a far cry from a community center. Our organization has tried to meet there, and they couldn't do it because they were having classes."

GENE TRAINOR, 817-390-7419

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