Dry summer may be ahead for Fort Worth swimmers

FORT WORTH -- The city's only public pool open this summer could shut down at any time because of maintenance problems, leaving residents with only limited access at YMCA pools.

The lining at the Forest Park pool is coming apart. Already, parts of the swimming complex have been roped off because of tears or ripples in the lining. The Parks and Community Services Department has been patching the liner periodically for the last five years, but the covering has become brittle and new patches won't stick, Assistant Parks Director Melody Mitchell said.

When the pool might close is anyone's guess; it all depends on the lining, said Veronica Villegas, city communications manager.

As a cost-cutting measure, the city closed its other six swimming pools this summer, but residents can use the Eastside, E.R. Van Zandt Southwest and Westside YMCA pools from 2 to 4 p.m. daily through Aug. 21, and the McDonald Community YMCA pool at those hours every day except Sunday.

Villegas could not say whether the city could open another pool. It typically takes months to get a pool ready for public use, she said.

The Forest Park pool was built in 1922 and remodeled in 1967. A PVC liner was installed in 1992, and it is well past its expected replacement date, Parks Director Richard Zavala said. Ultimately, water will penetrate the liner, and the floor of the pool will "float" away from the concrete bed, he said.

A new liner has fallen victim to tight budgets, Villegas said.

Officials chose Forest Park as the one pool to keep open because it's centrally located off University Drive near the Fort Worth Zoo and is the city's largest, she said.

The maximum occupancy, however, has been reduced from 750 to 500 because of the roped-off areas, Mitchell said. About 650 people a day use the pool, including a peak of 1,000 on Memorial Day.

The liner alone would cost $500,000 to replace, Zavala said. But the city has identified $1.5 million to $3 million worth of improvements needed at the pool, including repairs to aging bathrooms and changing areas and ensuring that the complex complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"If you're going to touch it, you need to go all the way," Zavala said.

Swimmers at the pool Tuesday called the potential closing "horrible" news. Wedgwood neighborhood resident Renee Kline called the YMCA hours "pretty limited." Forest Park is open from 1 to 7 p.m.

"It's obvious this pool is needed," Kline said. "It's packed."

Josh Cortez, 11, also of Wedgwood, said, "I'll be depressed" if it closes.

Dennis Malone and his niece Neci Tippens brought about a dozen relatives, mostly children, to the pool Tuesday.

"It's the only [city] pool open," Malone said. "That would be horrible."

GENE TRAINOR, 817-390-7419

MIKE LEE, 817-390-7539