As it plans for the new municipal pool at Free State High School, the city should continue to put emphasis on maximizing public access to the pool.
Although Free State High School's educational and athletic needs will be a top priority at the new municipal pool that will be built adjacent to the school, city officials appear to be keeping the interests of the public in mind as well.
City commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with the school district Tuesday night that sets out such details as how the pool will be maintained and managed. As part of the deal, a committee, made up of two representatives from the city and two from the school district, will be established to deal with pool scheduling.
The committee will have to make sure Free State's classroom and athletic team needs are being met, but certain features already are planned that should make the new pool far more accessible to the public than the city's Carl Knox Natorium at Lawrence High School has been.
Primary among those is a "family pool" that will be built adjacent to the 50-meter competitive pool. The family pool, which will include slides and fountains, as well as some lap-swimming lanes, will be reserved almost exclusively for public use, according to Parks and Recreation Director Fred DeVictor. There will be sufficient separation at the center, he said, to allow the family pool to be open to the public when FSHS classes or athletic teams are using the 50-meter pool. At some times, members of the public who want to swim laps may even be able to share the 50-meter pool with Free State students.
The city also is focused on providing separate entrances and parking for public users of the pool, both of which have been drawbacks to the pool at LHS. The city's parking area will be off-limits to Free State students and the city has the authority to use police powers to "notice, fine or tow" vehicles that are parked there illegally. Making the pool a "no smoking" zone was done at the request of school officials who didn't want to create a smoking haven at Free State, but most public swimmers probably also will appreciate that provision.
Concerns have been voiced that the new pool will be viewed primarily as a school facility that members of the public won't feel welcome to use. The efforts the city has made in the pool's design as well as the agreement with the school district go a long way toward allaying those fears.
If those efforts are followed by a schedule that provides convenient and plentiful hours for public use of the pool, the new facility could end up being a popular and well-utilized addition to the city's recreation offerings. There are bound to be facets of the joint pool operation that need to be ironed out after the pool is opened, but it appears both school and city officials are committed to making this facility work out to the satisfaction of all parties.