“It’s a simple timing issue that we wish the city would fix” said an exasperated North End mother. The issue at hand is a new city policy closing the North End’s Mirabella pool to the public weekdays between 3-4pm for the exclusive use of a city-run summer camp group.
At a meeting with local officials this week, parents asked the camp swim time to be moved earlier in the day so it would not interrupt public use in the middle of the hot summer afternoons when neighborhood kids are most often looking to be at the pool. Citing the safety concerns of the summer camp and new, stricter policies, city officials have not changed the midday closings.
Here is what happens: Each afternoon, Monday through Friday, shortly before 3pm, pool workers announce the clearing of the water and the pool deck. Participants of the city’s summer camp, between 20-40, then arrive at the pool for lessons and open swim. The original schedule also had a half-hour maintenance period, which the city adjusted so that the pool could reopen right after the camp swim period. Officials emphasize the one hour closing is worth it for camp safety, but residents cite the timing right in the middle of the day.
“Everyone has to leave the pool deck based on ratios for City licensed camps which are more strict than ratios for the general public,” said North End liaison, Maria Lanza, on behalf of BCYF and the Mayor’s Office. She continued, “They need to control and monitor who is in the area with the camp. The 17 City owned pools operate this way to ensure camp compliance and safety. They cannot rope off the pool as they need to separate campers based on swim ability, so they do need the entire pool. By clearing the pool for camp they reset counts and start fresh with an empty pool. It helps them control occupancy and daily maintenance of the pool. The City understands that this is not ideal for all, but they are not willing to compromise the safety of the children under the camp’s supervision.”
Parents say it is forcing neighborhood kids on the streets as they leave the pool for the North End, West End and surrounding areas. Adults and seniors are also asked to move out of the pool area, of which some relocate to a water spray area in front of the pool. Other North End kids are walking over the N. Washington Street bridge to go the Charlestown pool.
The new city policy of clearing the pool comes after a tragic 2016 death of a 7-year old boy who drowned while attending a similar city-run camp in South Boston at Carson Beach, run by the Curley Community Center. Earlier this year, the City of Boston reached a $5 million settlement with the boy’s family. In the North End, it is the BCYF Nazzaro Community Center that runs the pool and summer camp.
Neighborhood parents are hoping for a compromise, but time is running out with the pool set to close in nearly four weeks on Labor Day.
“It’s really sad when my 13 year old son and his friends have to walk over the bridge to the Charlestown pool to swim when we have a neighborhood pool right around the corner from where we live,” said Lynn Bova a lifelong resident of the North End. “I’m so disappointed.”