Donor buoys hopes for saving Forest Park pool

FORT WORTH -- For the first time since the historic Forest Park pool closed, there is hope that it might be saved.

The pool, built in 1922, was the city's largest and most popular before it was closed in August 2010.

But as city officials have searched for a solution, an anonymous donor has stepped forward and expressed interest in trying to save the pool, where generations of Fort Worth residents learned to swim.

In a letter sent to neighborhood presidents Thursday, Councilman Joel Burns said "a generous donor agreed this week to fund an engineering analysis of the pool to fully understand the feasibility of renovation of the existing facility," Burns said.

The cost of the study is undetermined, city officials said.

In recent months, Burns and city officials have been seeking a public-private partnership with groups or individuals to renovate or replace the pool.

With the emergence of the private donor, Burns has postponed a public meeting scheduled for Saturday to talk about the pool's future.

"Due to the promising progress of those discussions and the new opportunity to complete the engineering study, I believe it is prudent to postpone this community meeting until a later date when we have completed our due diligence regarding the options," Burns said Thursday.

'Important initiative'

City officials confirmed that a donor had come forward but said little else.

"Nothing's changed," Assistant City Manager Susan Alanis said. "We are still working on an exciting opportunity with a private donor to develop a project that we can all be proud of. We will share more information when it's available."

City officials were forced to close the pool when the liner, installed in 1992 for about $666,000, failed because of age and exposure to pool chemicals and the elements. At the time, the cost of replacing the liner was estimated at $1.5 million.

A 2007 audit put the cost of refurbishing the entire pool at nearly $3 million, but there is some hope that a new analysis might point to a much lower figure.

"This is an important initiative for me and we are making progress," Burns said in his message to neighborhood groups. "I will be in touch regarding next steps when we have more information and to reschedule our meeting later this spring."

Other pool plans

The city already has plans to spend $147,000 to reopen the Marine Park pool and about $3.85 million to build an aquatic center at the park by summer 2013. The old Marine Park pool would be demolished after this summer.

Marine Park and the other five pools -- Como, Hillside, Kellis, Sycamore and Sylvania -- have been shuttered since 2009 because of budget cuts. Last month, a consultant recommended that the city spend nearly $20 million over 10 years to build five aquatic centers, but the Forest Park pool was not part of that plan.

In January, the Parks and Community Services advisory board recommended building five aquatic centers over the next five to seven years. But council members have acknowledged that building that many pools in that space of time will present challenges given the city's budget issues.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna