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Columbus has several pool 'deserts' according to report on city aquatics

N i c o l a

The city of Columbus released a report on the city's aquatics facilities, which points out the city is lacking a necessary number of pools for a city with a population of over 900,000.

The city's final aquatics capital improvement plan points out several "deserts" with lack of access to pools in northern Columbus, the far southeast and the far southwest area of the city. The report identified nine potential locations to close the gap and supplement the city's eight outdoor pools and single indoor pool.

WOSU obtained the final plan on Friday afternoon.

The city paid Legat Architects almost $500,000 to develop the plan with public input. The plan also includes concept drawings and recommendations to repair or replace several aquatic facilities.

The most pressing needs are at the Glenwood, Windsor, Marion Franklin and Tuttle pools, which the report said are past their usable life. The report also said the city's only indoor pool, the Columbus Aquatics Center, is nearing the end of its usable life.

The plan said city aquatics face other challenges like overcrowding, a lack of awareness of amenities and programs and facilities being too far from where residents live. The lack of pools also creates problems for minorities.

Ed Vanasdale, president of the Forest Park Civic Association, said he agrees the area is in dire need of a pool and other recreational opportunities. The nearby Woodward Park Recreation Center is one of the city's oldest recreation facilities and has no pool.

"Any improvements to our city parks is greatly appreciated. There used to be multiple aquatic pools in the area, but the only one we have now is the YMCA, which requires a membership," Vanasdale said.

One metric the report used was from the National Recreation and Park Association, which recommends two pools per every 100,000 people. Columbus currently has one pool per every 100,000 people.

The Columbus metro area is projected to grow from 2.2 million to 3 million people by 2050.

Another key finding is that despite the population nearly doubling since the 1960s, the aquatics program has not expanded equally across the city, leaving Columbus with many underserved areas, especially further out from the city center.

Vanasdale said several private pools have closed over the years, and now it is not very feasible for residents in Forest Park to walk or bike to a nearby facility. He said the YMCA does partner with the neighborhood for events and is a stellar resource despite the cost to join.

The other deserts center around the Hilltop neighborhood and the area around Blacklick Estates and Pickerington Ponds Metro Park.

"Anything that the city can do for our young families to have outdoor recreation is greatly appreciated and immediate," Vanasdale said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.