There have been a few facts omitted from media coverage of the closing of the swimming pool at Gus Young Park. BREC’s 2004 Imagine Your Parks plan evaluated the entire park system, and the BREC Commission approved an addendum aquatics plan which recommended modernizing some pools and creating an aquatic system that offered more options in strategic locations, including learn-to-swim pools, splash pads and Liberty Lagoon Water Park.

The plan, prepared by a national aquatic firm familiar with best practices, also included partnering with other agencies to enable us to use resources more efficiently. The closing of pools at Baringer, Webb, Jefferson Highway and Gus Young Neighborhood Parks and the renovation of pools at Howell, City-Brooks and Anna T. Jordan Community Parks are part of that plan. The plan recommended having aquatic features only in community parks which serve a much larger population than neighborhood parks like Gus Young.

BREC places a high priority on teaching children to swim and continues to expand its partnership with the YMCA. Together we offer swimming lessons at BREC and YMCA pools and have created a free water safety program taught to students and parents during the school year. We are proud to say that in addition to teaching more than 475 kids to swim last year, hundreds more have signed up for swimming lessons again this summer.

BREC transports hundreds of children from our summer camps to our pools and to Liberty Lagoon on a daily basis. Outside camps also use those locations. Using cost savings from the closure of neighborhood pools, and working with the YMCA, we created a “Splash Pass,” which offers children the ability to swim at YMCA pools at BREC prices during our public swim times. Liberty Lagoon, in its fifth season, continues to thrive, frequently reaching maximum attendance levels and serving people throughout the parish.

Later this summer, BREC will present several options to replace the 50-year-old pool at Gus Young at a public meeting. Community leaders have asked us to consider building a splash pad, which would require a significant amount of private funding and commission approval since it is counter to our aquatics plan. BREC simply cannot afford to build splash pads or pools in neighborhood parks. If a sufficient amount of private funding is not located, we have ideas on how to enhance this active park and the many events held there now.

BREC remains committed to serving the entire parish while making the best use possible of limited taxpayer dollars that fund more than 180 parks. We have made substantial progress in creating a park system that better serves the parish and pledge to continue that effort.

Carolyn McKnight

BREC superintendent

Baton Rouge