For many decades, Walnut Creek had been a “leader in the field” of civic swim programs by providing everything from tots swim classes to elite Olympic programs.
But, alas, our two aquatic facilities–the Clarke Memorial Swim Center at Heather Farm Park and Larkey Park–are aging. They also are out-of-style for what the public now needs and wants for recreational swimming. More than that, they are below standard for what would be necessary or ideal to provide elite aquatics training or to host top swim competitions. This conclusion comes from a staff report in advance of this evening’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. of the Park, Recreation and Open Space Commission. The commission will begin its review of Walnut Creek’s aquatics needs.
An example of a sub-standard facility? The depth of the 50-meter pool at Clarke Memorial Swim Center. It is “a hindrance,” according to the staff report. “The governing body of competitive aquatics, USA Swimming, has determined that pools such as Clarke’s, which range in depth from 3.5 to 5 feet, are not sufficient for racing starts from platforms,” the report says.
Bottom line, if the city wants to host swim meets and to provide a place to train the best-of-the-best of competitive swimmers, as it has historically, it needs to provide an Olympic-caliber pool that is only 3.5 feet deep on one end.
With this pressing concern and many others related to this issue, the city is considering a major upgrade–basically tearing out and replacing the pools and bathhouses at Heather Farm and Larkey Park with new-and-improved facilities.
This upgrade will of course cost lots of money, in the millions of dollars. A consultant, The Sports Management Group, has recommended that the city replace Heather Farms’ 50-meter pool and 25-meter dive pool (where the nationally renowned synchronized swim team, the Aquanuts, train). The city should also replace the 1,800-square-foot instructional pool–as well as upgrade the bathhouse.
For Larkey Park, the consultant has said that the city should renovate the existing six-lane pool and diving well, replace the baby wading pool, and add a large and interactive “sprayground.” (The photo here shows a “sprayground” in St. Mary’s County, Maryland/)
An estimated cost for doing all this work? $21 million
Is putting out this money worth it? Especially in these tough economic times?
What the city says it is dealing with now is:
–Aquatic facilities that are in substandard condition and that cannot be renovated to meet current standards.
–A strong demand for a full range of aquatic programs at both facilities; this demand is expected to continue into the future.
–The facilities are unable to fully meet community demand for: family aquatics; swim lessons; competitive swim programs; swim meets; and social/recreational space.
–The city’s subsidy of these programs will keep going up if things stay the same.
The big question this report asks, and the the Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Commission will need to discuss is: “Given the condition of the aquatics facilities, and assuming the Walnut Creek community desires city-provided aquatic programs now and in the future, what is the best opportunity for success?”
Do you use Heather Farm or Larkey Park pools? I used to swim laps at Heather Farm–until I joined a fitness club that has a pool. Still, there is still something wonderful about swimming a lap in a pool with that length. My son took swim lessons at both pools, and he swam recreationally at Heather Farm on summer afternoons as part of the city-sponsored sports camp.
I’d definitely say that the Heather Farm bathhouse needs an overhaul. I also wish both pools could provide more ways for people, visiting those facilities on hot, intensely sunny summer afternoons, to get in the shade.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?