Is Washington Park Pool pricing out local neighborhood children?

Raymond Mason says he sees kids who can’t afford to swim in Washington Pool—although the city offers scholarships for students that are as low as $2.90 for a season pass. Photo by Eze Amos Raymond Mason says he sees kids who can’t afford to swim in Washington Pool—although the city offers scholarships for students that are as low as $2.90 for a season pass. Photo by Eze Amos

If you’re taller than 4 feet, it’ll cost you $6 to enter the Washington Park public pool, a price one resident claims is too high.

Raymond Mason appeared before City Council July 5 and complained about the price to enter the pool.

He says he’s seen young black children run up to the convenience store on Grady Avenue pleading for some spare change so that they could go swimming.

“I had a picture on my Facebook page this morning of young black kids in the ‘50s looking in the pool and watching people swim,” Mason says. “I see the same thing at Washington Park in 2016.”

The city created a scholarship program in October 2010 to help subsidize the cost of classes and activities—but not swimming—offered at the Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center. “The scholarship program didn’t cover admission to pools,” Mason says.

The scholarship program was modified in 2015 to include summer pool passes to all city pools. This year, 535 households are enrolled, and 90 percent of city students enrolled pay $2.90 for an unlimited season pass, according to Charlottesville Parks & Recreation.

“It should not be looking like a private pool on a regular basis,” says Mason. “I live close to that pool and I’m there every day, and I can count the black kids in that pool on my hand. And that pool was designated for the black community and it shouldn’t have been priced out.”

During the summer season, Washington Park Pool hosts Sunday Evenings in the Park, an event that happens once a month with free admission to the pool.

“When you have Sunday Evenings in the Park, at 3pm the pool will be packed with black children,” Mason says. “But it’s only three times during the summer season and that’s nothing.”

Daily admission fees went up $1 in 2013 to the current $6 rate, says Brian Daly, director of parks and recreation. Season pass rates vary for city residents and range from $29 for students under age 18 to $91 for a couple.

Daily admission at Washington and Onesty pools is based on height rather than age. “Safety restrictions are in place for the large slides that require the user to be 48″ tall to ride the slides,” Daly says. “For someone less than 48″ tall, the admission price is lower as that individual does not have the ability to experience all the amenities at the facilities.”

Mason also thinks that Washington Park, which is streetside, should have a crosswalk, like Greenleaf Park does. “It’s ridiculous that there’s no crosswalk in front of the pool when you’re talking about children crossing the street with all that business going up there… it’s almost criminal,” he says.

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