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Water, water everywhere: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott says there are plenty of pools open to swim

Kids play in the Roosevelt Park Pool. Pools are one strategy the city is using this summer to provide activities and jobs that will keep teens away from violence. (Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)
Kirk McKoy
The Baltimore Banner
Kids play in the Roosevelt Park Pool. Pools are one strategy the city is using this summer to provide activities and jobs that will keep teens away from violence.

As sweltering temperatures and low air-quality blanketed Baltimore City this week, some Baltimore City residents realized their favorite places to swim were closed.

Mayor Brandon Scott addressed reporters on Wednesday to share why three beloved swimming city holes are closed: Patterson Park pool, Clifton Park pool and the Cherry Hill splash pad.

Scott shared that Clifton Park pool is expected to open later this week pending mechanical repairs. The Cherry Hill splash pad is undergoing repairs, but the mayor was quick to point out that just a few feet away from that site is a new multi-million dollar indoor pool. “No one in Cherry Hill is without a pool,” said Scott, a Democrat who is up for re-election next year. Patterson Park pool is closed for renovation after flooding earlier this year overwhelmed what Scott described as nearly 70 year-old infrastructure.

“We have 23 pools in our system. 15 pools are open. 6 pools are under renovation or going out to bid,” said Scott who called those the “facts” and said that “anything else is just political posturing.”

During Monday evening’s Baltimore City Council meeting, District 1 Councilmember Zeke Cohen passed a resolution calling for a hearing into why the city’s pools remain closed. “Knowing that, traditionally in the summer Baltimore sees an uptick in violence, we know that one of the best activities for our young people is to swim in our public pools,” said Cohen from the council chambers floor. Cohen, who is running for City Council President, said that it was “critically important that we do the necessary oversight” on issues of “deferred maintenance” that would keep city pools from being open.”

Cohen’s district includes the Patterson Park pool. Mayor Scott put some of the fault for that closure back on the council member and community during his Wednesday morning press conference. He claimed that Patterson Park pool was originally scheduled for renovation for 2023 but that Cohen advocated for the pool to be kept open and instead advocated for “stopgap” repairs.

“In the case of Patterson Park Pool, money was allocated that should have been spent to fully repair the pool well before this summer,” wrote Cohen in an email to WYPR. He made note of $3.5 million in state funds that were made available in the FY 2022 state operating budget for July 1st, 2021. “These repairs should have taken place at the end of last summer, if not before. There is no good reason why those repairs have not yet happened in the summer of 2023."

“Every single child and adult in our city deserves to swim in our public pools during the summer. No excuses,” he wrote.

Further swimming pool controversy ignited online after WBAL Newsradio showed a clip on Tuesday of youths who had entered one of the closed pools and can be seen splashing around in the video. The news station received national attention for “biased reporting” of the incident.

Mayor Scott has repeatedly talked about how his administration has invested in youth and recreation, calling it “one of his biggest, if not the biggest priority” of his platform on Wednesday. He noted that in 2022 he invested $120 million, including $41 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, for improving the city’s recreation infrastructure.

Part of the mayor’s summer youth engagement strategy includes a heavy emphasis particularly on pools. The mayor’s “B’Lit, B’More Summer” parties, which include Friday night pool parties, are part of a “holistic” solution in addressing violence among Baltimore city teenagers and wellness, in addition to a youth curfew. This coming Friday’s party is scheduled to be held at Clifton Park pool, which is currently closed.

Despite the fact that the city is seeing one of the hottest summers on record, Scott defended his decision to keep pools like Patterson Park closed for renovations and said he would no longer accept “continuing to kick the can down the road” on old infrastructure.

“Our young people deserve to swim in pools like anybody else in the state, region and country. And that is really, for us, about ensuring that every pool and rec center in our city is world class,” said the mayor.

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.
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