Walnut Creek wants to maintain its aquatics glory by revamping its swim facilities

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?

15 thoughts on “Walnut Creek wants to maintain its aquatics glory by revamping its swim facilities

  1. The city should partner with MDUSD to build a third pool (aquatic center) at Northgate High School. This new pool can meet all the required standards for top competition and then when the economy turns they can renovate the other two. Partnering with schools is the new model…and so far has been very effective


  2. The city should partner with MDUSD to build a third pool (aquatic center) at Northgate High School. This new pool can meet all the required standards for top competition and then when the economy turns they can renovate the other two. Partnering with schools is the new model…and so far has been very effective


  3. One thing I was going to add, regarding the shower room at Heather Farm. It's dark, crowded, and, kind of–well–icky.

    Meanwhile, Anonymous 6:30 a.m. Thanks for that suggestion. Partnering with schools…The did that with the gymnasium at Foothill Intermediate, did it not? And, that's been a great community facility–for kids basketball practice and games. And as the drop-off spot for the city's sports camps.


  4. I have access to the pool at Club Sport and a neighborhood pool as well, so this wouldn't really benefit me, but I would generally support it. Heather Farms is a really neat complex in our community so keeping it up to date would be worth the investment, unless there's some other more pressing need for the funds such as hiring more police officers.


  5. Of course hiring more police officers would be wonderfulMasterlock but it is not glamorous. Besides admitting that we need more police officers is not good for the city image in the minds of those in charge of the money.

    That said, I do feel that the swimming facilities need to be updated and expanded. They do have the potential to bring in some income along the way also when major meets are held here.

    The pools should have been put ahead of the library when it came to handing out the money and now there isn't any left in the pot for the immediate future.


  6. Agreed, 7:55, but another house in our neighborhood up off Rudgear got ransacked last week and I just keep hoping someone will wake up.


  7. Yes, the pool at Heather Farms is gross. I personally would like to see an indoor Splash Swim School or American Swim Academy in Walnut Creek. Anyone willing to start up that venture?

    PS–Masterlock…what street? I had a suspicious character come my house last Wednesday.


  8. 10:07, how about that at any given time there are 6 patrol officers on duty and that our liaison officer told us that it could take 20 minutes for a response to a 911 call?


  9. 10:07 AM –

    If you live in Area 1 beat and have ever found it necessary to call for police aid and had to wait, that is all the data you need to come to the conclusion that more officers on the beat are needed. Area 1 covers Ygnacio Valley Rd/Homestead south to the city limits and also includes downtown and Rossmoor. Huge area to cover with minimum staff. Try to find an officer around 11:30 pm on a weekend night…..they are all in the thriving bar areas of downtown, not patrolling the residential areas of town.

    Make friends with a beat cop and ask him/her what they think of the staffing levels. While you are at it, ask them what they think of the amount of money that is being spent on the new library.

    Read the police logs on the city's website. Home buglaries are becoming more frequent, especially in Area 1. I am sure that there are others out there in the other beats who can tell you similar storys.


  10. I'm in the surrounding county and the sheriff told me that if a big emergency happens they don't have the staff on hand to handle it.

    Houses getting hit left and right in the surrounding areas also.


  11. The best option would be to sell the naming rights of the pools. They could name the pool center after a major company like McAfee in exchange for money to upgrade the pools and facilities.

    They could also add a cafe or put in a Starbucks or Peet's Coffee. In addition, they could add a yogurt shop and a Subway sandwich restaurant. They could add a sprayground and charge a higher admission fee as well. On the side, they could add an internet cafe and charge a small admission fee. Also, they could add in a tanning salon for those long winter months where people don't get enough sun. We could turn this center into a for-profit business and actually make money instead of just breaking even.


  12. The City of Walnut Creek is about to lay off at least 20 positions and you idiots are asking for them to fund pools on top of that library boondoggle? WTF?


  13. I volunteer at the Gardens at Heather Farm and the synchronized swimming coach on her loudspeaker counting out 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 over and over again really kills the peaceful feeling you should have in a Garden. As long as we're spending $21 million, maybe we can throw in a couple of extra million and build a cone-of-silence over the pool.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s