Public pools are disappearing

Originally published at: Public pools are disappearing | Boing Boing


Denver has periodically raised the rates to use the public pools much faster than incomes have grown, and has created a system where you public pool pass is only good at “local” public pools. Oddly, the pools in richer areas are congregated together, and the poorer areas have less choice. funny how that seems to price out residents in certain neighborhoods.

The one (onlty?) good thing that parks and rec here has done with pools has been to make it free for kids.


Our local public pool was my refuge in my teens, the only space I didn’t quite mind being called names. I could enjoy my time in the water alone.

Moving to Asia and with kids of my own, there’s outdoor pools open to the public which are a joy if they aren’t flooded by the river, but the rest we can’t access without class-separating membership fees of hundreds of dollars per person. Even those built into public elementary school grounds, run by a private company. I can’t figure out how a they could make an arrangement like that.


I live in New York City, not far from a big open-air public pool. Like most of the public pools in the city, it was built in the 1930s using WPA funds. Because it’s open-air, it’s not in use year-round, but during the summer the Parks Department opens it up. One of my very favorite things about living in New York used to be going to adult lap swim there in the morning or evening. I’d typically go 5 days a week, and it made me literally euphoric.

In 2020, the pandemic shut down the summer swim program. The pool is now open again in the summer, but the city can’t or won’t find the money to train and hire new lifeguards. For the last few years the pool has opened only for limited hours in the middle of the day for ‘recreation’. It’s great that the pool is there for the neighborhood kids and families, but, damn, I miss beginning or ending my day swimming laps in the open air. The next best alternatives are a couple of private pools that are smaller, more chlorinated, and underground. It’s just not the same.

We keep hoping each year that things will be different, that the city will hire the lifeguards it needs, but I fear that those days are gone forever. Meanwhile, the mayor wants to hire more police in a city where there is already more than 1 cop for every 250 people.


When I moved from MA to MD I discovered private pool clubs. I had never heard of one. I kept seeing these large outdoor pools and figured they were public pools. When I tried to use one, I was told I had to pay about a thousand dollars to join and a few hundred dollars per year after that to stay a member. Later I found out that all of these pools were created after desegregation. Technically these pools are ‘open to all’ but their membership is mostly white.


Well-maintained public pools and well-maintained libraries are key parts to civic life. It’s easy to take them for granted when you live in a city that has them. I love my pools and I live my libraries.


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