Another east-west West Seattle divide: Sunday wading pools


What’s missing in that picture? Kids enjoying a city wading pool on a sunny Sunday afternoon — according to people who live near that pool, which is in the park next to Delridge Community Center. It’s always closed on Sundays – as are the two other wading pools in eastern West Seattle (Hughes and Highland Park), as well as not-too-distant South Park wading pool, while the two wading pools in western West Seattle (Lincoln Park and Hiawatha) are open seven days a week. In correspondence with the concerned neighbors, as well as in a response to a WSB inquiry, the Parks Department says the wading-pool schedule is carefully considered by geography. More on that ahead – but first, we took a look at the online citywide schedule and made this map, with blue markers showing the 7-day-a-week pools/spray features and red markers showing the ones closed Sundays (most of those are closed both weekend days, with a few exceptions; Delridge is open Saturdays):

View Larger Map

The schedules aren’t new but the Sunday closures became particularly glaring for neighbors in the 90-degree heat a week ago, when the pool had a “rogue opening” as one neighbor described it, after somebody figured out how to turn on the water – and now they are trying to get the Parks Department to make a change – read on:

The website for Seattle Parks and Recreation’s wading pools exhorts, “As an element of the City’s water conservation effort, we’re encouraging people to use public wading pools rather than fill their home “kiddy pools” or run backyard sprinklers.” But on Sundays, that’s impossible for people in eastern West Seattle neighborhoods to do – without a car trip (or a multiple-transfer bus trip). So Delridge residents are pressing the city to make a change.

West Seattle has five city-operated wading pools. On Sundays, only two of them are open — both in western West Seattle; the three in eastern West Seattle are closed, as are the ones in semi-nearby South Park and Georgetown, as you can see on the map above.

The push for change started with Delridge residents Jerry and Betsy Hoffmeister pointing out the situation on the North Delridge Neighborhood Council mailing list. Trying to find out why it and the other eastern West Seattle wading pools, as well as South Park, aren’t open on Sundays, they and others contacted the Parks Department and got this reply (note, though a total of 25 wading pools are mentioned in the following correspondence, the city website lists 30, including the five “spray features,” so that’s what you see on the map above). First, city aquatics manager Kathy Whitman replied to them, in part:

On Sunday, nine wading pools are open [citywide] and 16 are closed. In West Seattle, both Hiawatha and Lincoln are open.

This is not a recent schedule change. The Sunday sites were established a number of years ago based on 1) providing some geographic balance and 2) attendance numbers. We have published a schedule for 2008 and it would be difficult to make adjustments for this year.

We will monitor attendance numbers closely this year and see if a change is warranted for 2009. The number of budgeted days of operation will not change, but we can see if a shift of locations might better serve the community. …

Concurrently at the end of last week, we asked Parks Department spokesperson Dewey Potter for a comment on the wading-pool situation, and received a similar response:

A great deal of staff work and thought goes into the wading pool schedule with a particular emphasis on geographic distribution. A secondary consideration is annual attendance. For the purposes of identifying work areas, Parks considers three zones in the city: north, central, and south. …

Sunday openings: Nine are open, 16 are closed. Sunday sites were chosen some years back based on geographic distribution and attendance numbers. They include the big three [WSB note – that’s Volunteer Park, Green Lake, and Lincoln Park] and:

Bitter Lake – North
East Queen Anne – Central
Hiawatha – South
Van Asselt – South
View Ridge – North
Wallingford – North

… While it is too late to make adjustments for 2008, Parks staff will watch the attendance numbers carefully with an eye to adjustments to the schedule in 2009, depending on our budget.

Subsequently, Delridge resident Nancy Folsom wrote back to aquatics manager Kathy Whitman:

… I respect that you are responsible for the safe and appropriate use of wading pools. I don’t have the data upon which the decision about pool schedules was made. Perhaps you could make them available if you think it would help us. You do mention the schedule has been set for a number of years. Perhaps it bears revisiting?

In lieu of your data, I researched the City’s publicly available demographic data. From it I find the assessment that Hiawatha and Lincoln represents a geographic balance is plainly wrong.

… Hiawatha and Lincoln do balance the geographic area north to south, but they certainly do not balance the area east to west. Expanding the idea of balance to population, and looking at the unintended consequences of the schedule, the schedule choices represent a gross unbalance.

With regard to age, race, and income, I considered Seattle’s publicly available demographic information.

This map makes the income disparity plain. (It) shows the following:

– The high income areas of West Seattle (west of 35th) have two pools, and both are open 7 days a week.
– The low income areas of West Seattle have four pools [including South Park]. Two are open 6 days, and two are open only on weekdays.

This link is a map that will illustrate the breakdown of race and age in West Seattle. From it you can see for yourself that the low income area also has the higher proportion of non-white residents and residents under the age of 18.

From these data, I conclude that the very people most needing an accessible and affordable way to cool off on days that warrant a heat advisory (as last weekend did):

1) have the most people of the age to use wading pools
2) are the very people who probably don’t have access to air conditioning
3) can’t easily pack the kids in a car and drive to another wading pool.

Your letter mentioned that the schedules were in part based on attendance numbers. I don’t know if that means that pools were once open, but under-used, on Sundays, or whether it refers to the number of community members who were able to make their voices heard. We, on the east side of 35th, do have a large immigrant and refugee population. Also, people with low-incomes are frequently working two jobs, going to school, and busy parenting. So, many of us simply don’t have the resources to discover, much less advocate for, city resources.

On this last point, I am fumbling in the dark, since I don’t know what the attendance basis was. I do know that it will be difficult for you to reassess based on attendance since, as you’ve said, the schedules are already set. Perhaps the attendance at the rogue opening [one week ago] Sunday, though, is useful information?

I believe the city’s choices were not intended as classist or racist. Unfortunately, the effect is socially unjust. One cannot disown the effects of a choice no matter how well intended the choice was. I look forward to
your office reconsidering the bases upon which the schedules are decided.

As we were working on this report, another exchange ensued this morning; Whitman reiterating that the city will take another look for 2009, and Folsom reiterating a request for a response to her contention that Sunday pool availability in this area is not equitable if you consider socioeconomic demographics. It should also be noted that eastern West Seattle also is currently without a fullscale swimming pool, because of the summerlong Southwest Pool closure for renovations and upgrades (WSB report here). We’ll update you as this develops.

21 Replies to "Another east-west West Seattle divide: Sunday wading pools"

  • ZS July 7, 2008 (11:39 am)

    “We will monitor attendance numbers closely this year and see if a change is warranted for 2009.”

    How can the city monitor Sunday attendance at pools that are closed on Sunday?? They assume that attendance on other days provides a fair data set but that is not necessarily the case.

  • Michael July 7, 2008 (11:47 am)

    Is it really worth playing the race card and making people (you see them as “the city” but the people reading your e-mail ARE people) feel like crap just to open a wading pool on Sundays?

  • JoB July 7, 2008 (1:37 pm)


    if you are the parent of the children on the east side who don’t have the resources to go somewhere else and don’t have air conditioning.. and would like to spend your day off with your children at the local park.. letting the kids cool off in the wading pool…

    i would bet it is worth playing any card.

  • karen July 7, 2008 (1:42 pm)

    On that hot Sunday we did end up at the Hiawatha pool. I would have preferred to go somewhere closer, like Delridge. We did have the option of Hiawatha and Lincoln Park. I would love to see Delridge open, too, maybe when it’s forecast for over 80? I do see that pool getting a lot of use during the week.

  • Gina July 7, 2008 (2:19 pm)

    Gee, none of the wading pools in West Seattle have any augmented water features. No matter what day they are open or closed.

    What’s up with that? I’m playing the West Seattle card.

  • Nancy Folsom July 7, 2008 (2:25 pm)

    Michael – Accusing someone of “Playing the race card” has become an altogether easy way to dismiss and trivialize someone’s opinion without having to critique the substance of the opinion.

    If you have a substantive criticism to make of my interpretation of the facts, or if you have additional facts, please, share your opinion with me, with all of us. What do you see when you review the links (to the city’s own data)?

    You may notice on re-reading my text that I’m civil to Ms. Whitman and acknowledge her serious responsibility for the pools. Also, I explicitly the best of the city officials intentions. One is responsible for the effects of choices, as I said in the letter, however.

    I look forward to hearing your considered opinion.

  • Zenguy July 7, 2008 (3:56 pm)

    I would just like to hear how the schedules were devised and the data used for the decision. It certainly seems like there are a lot of kids in East West Seattle that are being underserved. Can’t they cut a couple of days during the week to open on the weekends? My nephew was very disappointed they were not open this Sunday…me too for that matter.

  • chas redmond July 7, 2008 (4:56 pm)

    On the other hand, perhaps continuously turning on the water on the weekends will force the issue. I’ve also spoken with Parks employees and most of the wading pools in the city have valve sets which would not be that hard to find and not that hard to activate. Sometimes civil disobedience is the correct choice, especially when the city is being so recalcitrant. Parks is trying to live a two-decades pathetic reputation down – this does NOT do the reputation-building exercise any good. Actually it shows what folks have been accusing Parks of for a long time – complete and utter indifference to the actual needs of people for recreational facilities. Look at the schedule of the community centers – close when they should be open; open when no one would be expected to be there. And so on. I’m surprised this hasn’t reached Tim Gallagher yet – he actually seems to care.

  • Michael July 7, 2008 (5:20 pm)

    If you didn’t mean to write what you did, please say so, but don’t turn it back around on me. What you ended up writing, however, not so subtly implied that the City was not opening the pools on Sunday because they are used by people of color. I can’t un-say it for you, but you can maybe think of another direction that doesn’t, well, harm your karma.
    Think about what you wrote. Do you really mean that?

  • Nancy Folsom July 7, 2008 (6:16 pm)

    Michael- You are still attacking me and not my ideas. Which either means you cannot find fault with my arguments, or you have not read and considered what I wrote. Perhaps it would be helpful to spend more time reading what was written and less time reading what was not.

  • miws July 7, 2008 (7:49 pm)

    I see nothing offensive about Nancy’s E-Mail to the Parks Dept. And believe me, I am very sensitive to, and offended by complaints passed along in any manner, face-to face, phone, e-mail, snailmail, or whatever, that can be percieved as attacking the recipient, when they likely had no role in establishing whatever policy, or were not otherwise directly involved in what the complaint is about. (I work in retail!)



  • acemotel July 7, 2008 (8:20 pm)

    WHY are the community centers closed on weekends when people have free time? WHY are they open during the week in winter when most people are working and kids are in school? I know about seniors, SAHMs and SAHDs, but it’s pathetic to see the centers closed on WEEKENDS when people are out and about. I don’t understand why the bathhouse is closed most of the time, either. This last stretch of good weather the building was closed up tight as a drum, and it would have been a perfect for the parks dept to showcase the programs and facilities our maybe-increasing tax dollars are buying. Why would anyone want to vote for a parks levy when parks buildings are closed whenever the public is out?

  • chas redmond July 7, 2008 (9:37 pm)

    If you follow the link Nancy provided, and do a little digging with the data, it does show that the city’s choices for which facilities to make convenient or available seem to favor the higher economic census tracts. That’s also true for other views of the demographic. The point Nancy was making is that the alignment of resources by the city seems to be inversely proportional to the need. That’s something which needs to be rectified.

  • Alison July 7, 2008 (10:57 pm)

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Perhaps folks in the “higher economic census tracts” have more access, time and resources to advocate for what they need. Why is it that any time a person of color has an issue white folk start whining about “the race card.” That is a tired excuse for dismissing the inequality of resource distribution in a given area. When I see folks in Alki or the Admiral District having to fight against jails in their neighborhood we can talk about the damn race card.

  • Michael July 8, 2008 (12:28 am)

    I said not one word about you as a person. Your ideas are all I have to speak to.
    Please don’t go down the road of making false accusations. If you didn’t mean what you wrote, you can say so and we will accept it. People often unintentionally say or write things they don’t mean.
    W/R/T the issue of siting “inequality”: look at the blue pins at Holly Park and Yesler Terrace. Then look at the red pins at Leschi and the Cap Hill/Ballard condo zones and tell me there’s a socioeconomic bias there. Look for another reason – I bet you can find one.

  • miws July 8, 2008 (4:57 am)

    Michael, You seem to have a hidden agenda here, especially regarding Nancy.


    Do you work for Seattle Parks, and are “offended” by her pointing out demographic facts?


    What with her being a Community Activist, have you had some other encounter with her that made you look bad professionly, or personally? Or just plain annoyed you?


    I have never met Nancy. For all I know she may be a very mean person with horns on her head!


    All I know is that her e-mail to Parks, is intelligently, and thoughtfully written, based on facts gleaned from City demographics.


    Plus, I doubt that WSB would continue to publish her contributions, if they had any doubt to her real intent, and I trust their judgement.



  • Bob Loblaw July 8, 2008 (7:09 am)

    Sounds like it’s time to Get Jesse!

  • acemotel July 8, 2008 (9:43 am)

    ha ha ha Bob.

  • CMP July 8, 2008 (7:27 pm)

    Acemotel makes an excellent point…why are parks and rec sites generally closed on the weekend when that’s usually the time when people can utilize the facilities?? I really don’t understand their scheduling at all, nor do I see the logic in how the pools are selected for a Sunday opening. They should all be open on Sundays so people don’t have to drive or bus all over West Seattle to access them.

  • Michael July 9, 2008 (11:14 am)

    Wow, I’m blown away. Why get so personal? Why not address the statements and facts instead? I pointed out what Nancy’s letter was implying and its potential effect on the recipient – not only that, I acknowledged that to be fair she may not know the implications of what she wrote AND I pointed out the fallacy of the “socioeconomic discrimination” theory with facts – so I obviously have an axe to grind?
    I’m speechless.

  • Dave Gould July 10, 2008 (4:10 pm)

    I worked in State and local governments for over thirty years of my work life. I can tell you that staff do not desire to work weekends (they want “their weekend”). I believe the community should set the hours for services at community centers, pools etc. All of us can live with finite resources if we have a part in the decision making process. If the community chose to keep a wading pool closed for a day during the week in order to keep it open on the weekend, people would live with it because they had a voice in the process.

    I vote for giving eastside West Seattle their pool time. The rationale of those living on the eastside makes sense. (I live on the westside)

Sorry, comment time is over.