Local swim instructor and community members push to reopen Harvey West pool in time for summer
Swim instructor Jim Booth first started coaching at Harvey West Pool in 1974. Now, nearly 40 years later, Booth is working with other community members to reopen Harvey West Park’s lap pool, which was shut down more than two years ago as part of a series of budget cuts that aimed to fix the city’s deficit.
Booth still gives lessons at the children’s pool, which remains open, but would like to see the main lap pool opened again (it was closed because it requires more energy use, and thus produces a bigger PG&E bill). “It’s tradition,” Booth says. “[When] all of us grew up, our moms and dads dropped us off at the pool in the summer. Thousands of kids have grown up with that pool.”
Organizers of the group Harvey West Community Pool, which spearheaded the recent push to reopen the pool, say they have raised nearly half of the $30,000 needed to cover operations costs for the summer. They are hoping to get close enough to their fundraising goals to be able to get permission from the city to go ahead and open it up to the public.
“The only thing we need right now is to reach our funding goal,” says Harvey West Community Pool Director Steve Pleich. “The pool is absolutely ready to go. Jim Booth’s been up there every day checking out the pumps and the heaters and making sure that when we get the money we’re ready to go.
“It’s kind of a Rube Goldberg contraption up there,” Pleich adds. “Thank goodness we have him on board.”
The idea for this grassroots effort came from Kevin Moon and Pleich while they were running for city council in 2010. Although the two came from different sides of the political spectrum, and neither won a seat on the council, they became friends and developed the Harvey West project after the election.
Moon proposed working to revive the pool and Pleich and Booth were soon on board. “We talked to Jim [Booth] and we had one meeting and we were good to go,” says Pleich.
Pleich sees opening the pool as an important step to revitalizing the area, and nearby business have also contributed to the effort, as has the group Friends of Harvey West Pool, which recently pledged $2,500 to the fundraising drive.
Local community members have also pitched in to buy $100 memberships to the pool for the summer. Still, Pleich is worried that the recent cold weather may have put a dampener on their efforts. “It’s hard to sell memberships when people are wearing six layers of clothing,” he says.
Pleich thinks the best advertisement for selling the memberships will be getting the pool open, but the date when this might happen is uncertain. Initially the group was hoping for a June 15 opening date, but now Pleich says it is more likely to be July 1.
The Beach Flats Community Center, Teen Center and Surfing Museum were also closed around the time the city axed funding for the Harvey West pool, but community efforts have since helped reopen all of these services.
Although the city still lacks funds to reopen the pool, Mayor Ryan Coonerty says the city supports the efforts put forth by the Harvey West Pool Community group to do so. “Closing the pool was a difficult decision,” says Coonerty, adding that Booth taught him to swim when he was 5 years old. “It provides recreational opportunities but it is also important for preparing children for ocean safety. Unfortunately, there simply are not the funds to keep it open. We are excited that this group has stepped forward to raise the funds to keep it open.”
Photo caption: Steve Pleich, Kevin Moon and Jim Booth pictured in front of the Harvey West pool. Photo by Keana Parker.