Keeping city pools up and running for the summer

The ice cream truck in the parking lot isn't the cheeriest sound of summer at the Hunting Park recreation center.
No, that would be the sounds of kids laughing and playing and splashing in the huge public pool here.

"I just love to see and hear children," said Jeremy Clark as he lounged with his son on a poolside beach towel. "You hear it? Listen! Listen! There's no cussing going on around here!"

Hunting Park is one of 70 outdoor pools maintained by Philadelphia's Department of Parks and Recreation with most of the pools well past their 50th year of use, keeping them up and running is no easy task.

"It is a mad dash every single year," said Parks and Rec commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, "To troubleshoot the problems, to paint the pools, to make them safe."

This summer the pool in Fishtown-- affectionately known as The Swimmo-- is closed for the season for a complete rebuild. It's been around since 1962 and will get a handicap access and see its deep and shallowed out. To bring every pool up to modern standards of efficiency and appearance would cost the city $50-$70 million.

Any chance that money will magically appear for use?

"I don't think so," said Ott Lovell, "Unless it's buried underneath the pool somewhere!"

And so the city does its best to stay one doggy paddle ahead of needed repairs on pools that are the lifeblood of their communities.

The pool at Hunting Park closed early Tuesday, so repair crews could work on valves in the filtration system. That much-needed work temporarily steals from kids the precious gift of something to do on a sweltering summer day.

"It gives them something to do other than stay in the house and be on the phone all day," said Mitoya Reed, poolside with her kids. "And it keeps them cool, keeps them out of trouble and then they go home and eat and go to sleep!"