The fate of Silver Lake pool remains uncertain.
Rochester City Council President Randy Staver said the need for more discussion regarding the proposal to permanently close the pool stems from public comments he’s hearing.
“People are not enamored by water features,” he said. “They want a pool.”
Council member Nick Campion said he’s receiving different input, especially from parents with young children.
“Predominantly, as I have knocked on doors in Northwest Rochester, the commentary has been on the need for no-depth and zero-depth play options for children in the pool setting,” he said.
Mayor Kim Norton said she believes both features are needed in the city.
“Neither one is enough, and we need to do more,” she said, adding that the city needs more than one pool.
Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said the proposal to close the Silver Lake pool stems from the Park and Recreation System Plan adopted in 2016. The plan calls for maintaining a lap pool and children's activities in Soldiers Field Park, while creating a different type of water feature in Silver Lake Park.
“Our goal here is not just to close Silver Lake pool,” he said. “We feel we have very good reasons not to reopen that pool, but it’s not just to leave it behind. It’s to move forward with the planning that is already in place.”
The plan calls for the creation of water features in each of five identified zones throughout the city.
Council member Shaun Palmer said it still leaves the east side of the city at a disadvantage.
“If you go east of Broadway, you have no outdoor aquatic amenities,” he said, pointing to public and private pools and lakes with swimming options on the western half of the city.
Council member Michael Wojcik pointed out the city’s two outdoor pools are a 12-minute bike ride from each other, making them accessible to the same people, and closing one would allow for development of other features throughout the city.
Campion said the usage at the two pools shows which one is preferred.
“It’s clear from the participant data, that the community’s preference is Soldiers Field,” he said.
In 2019, the Silver Lake pool reported a daily average of 71 users, compared to 202 at the Soldiers Field pool.
Palmer said the difference is due to the lack of investment in the Silver Lake pool, which he said has been threatened with closure since 1992. He pointed to a study that states the pool shell and deck remain in good condition, acknowledging other aspects of the site need some attention.
“I don’t want this to be the council that kills the pool,” he said., indicating it remains a variable asset.
He suggested holding off until a Silver Lake Park master plan is developed next year to get more public input on the potential closure and potential to make upgrades.
Other council members voiced a willingness to wait at least until the public weighs in on a Nov. 3 referendum that would provide $2 million annually for park improvements.
“I’m supportive of the idea of let’s see what happens with the referendum,” Staver said. “It might give us some more flexibility.”
Keeping the pool open would likely add $40,000 to $50,000 to the city’s 2021 budget, which won’t be finalized until December, at least a month after the public vote on the referendum.