Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Los Banos pool to close for repairs this summer


After years of failed stopgap measures, local aquatics officials will shut down Santa Barbara’s main community pool, Los Banos del Mar Pool, this summer to repair a leaky wall.
Addressing concerns raised about the timing of the closure, during the warm summer months when the pool sees plenty of action, the city’s aquatic recreation supervisor Rich Hanna said it’s been a tricky process.

“We looked long and hard at when the best time is to close the only community pool here in Santa Barbara,” he said. “We have a bunch of different user groups that use Los Banos pool. There’s really no good time.”
But with Santa Barbara High School on summer vacation, Hanna is planning to shift a few of the aquatics programs to its pool, including adult lap swimming, programs through the Santa Barbara Swim Club, and swim lessons.
He’s also looking into reserving time at the newly opened Elings Aquatic Center at Dos Pueblos High School.
“During the school year, that time wouldn’t be available,” Hanna said.
Other youth programs that typically use Los Banos pool, such as the Boys and Girls Club and Girls, Inc., will be encouraged to use the beach near a lifeguard station. Taking a dip in the ocean any other time of the year is often too chilly for most folks, Hanna said, again making summer months the prime time for a closure.
“We do have beach lifeguards on the beach every day from 10 to 6,” he said. “…Although Los Banos will not be available to [kids] this summer, I believe we can provide the same safeguards for them at the beach.”
Courses held by Santa Barbara City College at Los Banos pool, including marine diving classes, could also be disrupted by a fall, winter or spring closure, Hanna said, potentially throwing off academic careers.
“And being that it’s a summer closure, it gives us the best opportunity to get the project finished with good weather,” he added.
Plans are still in the works to relocate the Santa Barbara Swim Club’s Semana Nautica Age Group Swim Meet, which is held annually on Fourth of July weekend and draws hundreds of participants from throughout the state.
During the scheduled construction period, from June 21 to August 29, workers will remove and replace the deep-end wall to fix a stubborn leak. Hanna said officials are also taking the opportunity to replaster the entire pool, something done every 10 years, and complete other minor maintenance projects.
Although the pool underwent a major remodel in 1995, including new gutters, deck and equipment, the walls did not get replaced. Sometime between that project and a renovation of the locker room facilities three years later, the pool sprung a persistent leak.
After five separate attempts to fix the problem with various methods, officials made the decision to shut down the pool rather than waiting for it to become a major issue.
Local resident Jack Kaplan said he first heard about the pool closure when he saw it mentioned in the parks and recreation department’s summer activity guide. As a longtime user of Los Banos pool, he said he has serious concerns about closing it down during the summer, particularly for those who take part in its recreational swim program.
“I’m 70 years old and I’ve been going to the pool since it opened,” he said. “It’s the only time I can go to a public pool like that, during the summer, not to mention all the kids who go there.”
During the rest of the year, the pool is only open for lap swimming, Kaplan said, which he doesn’t enjoy. He also took note of the fact that lap swimmers will be able to use Santa Barbara High School’s pool.
“That could have been opened, in my opinion, for rec swim as well,” he said.
Hanna said he attempted to secure time for open recreational swim at the local high school, but aquatic programs normally held at San Marcos High School are taking up time there as well, since the Royals pool is also under construction.
The Oak Park wading pool, for children 7 and under, as well as the Ortega Park pool, for those 13 and under, will remain open for recreational swim, Hanna said. The wading pool adjacent to Los Banos pool will be closed as a construction staging area.
Kaplan also raised concerns that a pending lawsuit against the City of Santa Barbara involving the drowning death of 14-year-old Katie Janeway at Los Banos pool in 2002 might be playing a role in the decision to effectively eliminate recreational swim hours this summer.
But Hanna said that is not the case.
“There is absolutely no connection related to the Janeway case,” he said. “We have been operating the recreational swim program prior to the Janeway incident and after the Janeway incident every summer.”

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