Sylvania Park Pool has undeniably seen better days.
The 445,000-gallon circular pool built in 1936 has several varieties of trees growing up through the concrete bottom, including a willow sapling. The pump house is sinking, and sunlight brightens the empty shed from cracks in the walls.
The last time the pool was open and running — in 2009 — it was leaking about 45,000 gallons of water per day.
Still, Fort Worth resident Gerald D. Howard can’t help but think the pool should be repaired, instead of demolished as the Fort Worth City Council decided to do in a 7-1 vote last week.
The kids in the neighborhood should have somewhere to learn how to swim, like his kids did, he said, and they need a place to escape the heat during the intense Texas summers. Everyone should have the space to exercise, he said.
“Of course I think we should repair it. Why should we have to [demolish it]?” he asked.
Sylvania Park Pool is one of five the City Council voted to demolish. The others are Sycamore Park Pool, built in 1926; Lake Como Park Pool, built in 1957; Kellis Park Pool, built in 1960; and Hillside Park Pool, built in 1960. All have been closed since 2010 because of budget cuts.
Turning the sites back into open park space is expected to cost $262,688, with the demolitions scheduled to start in February.
The council’s decision leaves only two public pools open in the city: Forest Park Pool, which was repaired in 2013 for $661,000, and Marine Park Pool, which was demolished and reconstructed in 2012 for $3.2 million. Both are on the western side of the central city about five miles apart.
“Fort Worth is saying, ‘We can only do it at Forest Park, with the high-income people across the street,’ but what about the rest of us?” asked Howard, who was sitting at the mostly empty park Monday morning. “There are children here who have no other place to go.”
Howard’s concerns echo those of Councilman Sal Espino, who voted against the motion to demolish the pools. Councilwoman Gyna Bivens was absent from the meeting.
“I have a personal connection to the swimming pools,” Espino said. “On the north side, we have the Marine Park Pool, and that is where I learned to swim.
“The master plan does call for certain pools in certain places, but I couldn’t bring myself to vote yes until we were further along in doing something for those communities where the pools are being demolished.”
David Creek, assistant director of parks and community services, said the pools should be demolished for several reasons, including safety, aesthetics of the parkland and the high cost of repairs.
Despite the foot of barbed wire at the top of the fence surrounding Sylvania Park Pool, there are telltale signs of trespassing. An old speaker system is in the corner near the bathrooms. Graffiti is on the walls.
“It removes the opportunity for injury because of vandalism or kids getting in there to play,” Creek said of demolition. “It removes the eyesore … And it creates an open space where people can use the park.”
A 2007 outside audit of the pools estimated that Sylvania Park Pool would cost $2 million to repair. The cost to repair all five of the city pools was estimated at $12.5 million.
And that cost does not include updating the pools to account for modern expectations — such as lap lanes, zero-depth areas, slides and water features — and it also does not bring the pools up to accessibility standards.
Rebuilding new neighborhood pools, which the master plan calls for in each quadrant of the city, will cost about $4 million each.
When those pools are built, however, depends on available funding. Pools did not make the short list for the $292 million bond program approved in May.
“I understand the existing pools are old and outdated,” Espino said. “But I would say if we can find the money to refurbish them at least temporarily, until we can find the money for new pools, for these underserved communities that would be good.”
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984