Neighborhood uses Facebook to prevent La Crosse pool from closing

Even though it isn’t warm enough to swim yet, a city of La Crosse pool is already closed for the summer season — and it’s sparking a bit of controversy in the surrounding neighborhood.

Memorial Pool is on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, just off Campbell Road. It is one of three swimming pools owned and operated by the city of La Crosse.

The city said the pool needs a lot of work, a big reason it’s closed for the season, but residents in the nearby Grandview Emerson neighborhood are trying to save the pool.

At 78 years old, Memorial Pool has a long history in La Crosse, but the city says the pool is showing its age.

“The problems are persisting and they’re continuing to get worse,” Jay Odegaard, La Crosse Parks, Recreation & Forestry supervisor, said.

The city put $40,000 into the pool last year just bringing it back into working order, but said the pool’s pipes are corroding and the pool liner is constantly cracking causing the pool to lose about 7,500 gallons of water every day.

“It really becomes an environmental concern as well as a safety concern with the structure of the building,” Odegaard said.

The city parks board recently voted to not open the pool for the summer, and conduct a study to find out if the pool is worth remodeling for an estimated $3 million or if it should sell the land to improve the other city pools or build a new pool somewhere else.

Members of the Grandview Emerson Neighborhood Association have created a Facebook group called Save Memorial Pool, which has already gained more than 200 “likes” in about a week.

The group said the pool is an important resource in the neighborhood and they don’t want to see it go.

“Especially in this area of the neighborhood, if you consider all of the assets, the density of the population, the tax base, the different populations — both students and others — it’s amazing we would want to give up on this really valuable piece of property,” Jacob Sciammas, co-chair of GENA, said.

Sciammas said Memorial Pool has unique features to it that the other two city pools don’t have. He said there are lots of people outside his neighborhood who would be sad to see the pool go so he hopes the city will listen to their concerns.

“I think if you found the common thing that everyone believes is that we should really keep some kind of a swimming resource in this area of the city,” Sciammas said.

UWL chancellor Joe Gow said the university would be interested in buying the property, depending on the price, but would not keep the pool. Most likely changing it into a parking lot or green space. Gow said a pool is out of budget.

The study still has to be approved by the La Crosse City Council. The Parks Department hopes to have the study completed and a plan in place before the summer of 2017.