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Community members step up to try to help open Roanoke pools

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The pools at Fallon Park and Washington Park are closed because of COVID-19 restrictions, but they could remain closed as a result of budget cutbacks and a lack of tax revenue for the City of Roanoke. However, some community members are stepping up to raise money in the hopes of reopening the pools.

Nobody has been able to enjoy the pool at Washington Park this spring, and the one at Fallon Park doesn’t even have water in it, which is not normally the case.

“In the summertime when school is out we’d have something to do. Cause the park was here and the pool was open. So the kids wouldn’t go get in trouble. I’m going to miss it if they close it,” said Angela Allen, who grew up going to the pool.

Allen now takes her kids to the pool, but when she heard there wasn’t money in the budget for it to open next year, she says she was devastated.

“Where are they going to go? Cause a lot of kids around here don’t have transportation to the lake or anywhere else. At least here they could walk here,” said Allen.

It’s a decision that the Roanoke City Parks and Recreation Director Michael Clark says didn’t come easily.

“At the end of the day, we had to look at all the different facilities and services and programs that we offer. And we had to make reductions of eliminations to the areas that impacted the least amount of people,” Clark said.

Since 2017, the city has paid for the utilities, chemicals, and other costs in order to get the pool ready. In addition, the City of Roanoke partnered with the Gator Swim Club to run the pool at Fallon Park and YMCA to run the pool at Washington Park.

“I’m not upset with the city that they cut what they cut because it’s lean. It’s lean times,” said head coach Doug Fonder of the Virginia Gators Swim Club.

Fonder stepped up and says not only will they handle the cost for chemicals, but he wants to partner with others to cover the rest of the costs if it will reopen the pool.

“I just think it’s what we should do if we believe in something. To step forward,” Fonder said.

“We know pools we know swimming so we should pass it on to the community.”

Clark says they are happy to have the support.

“It’s fantastic to see the support for it, the community engagement and involvement. We’ll certainly work with them if they’re able to fundraise the necessary amount to keep them open,” Clark said.

Clark says they budget about $20,000 for the chemicals to run the pool and $45,000 for utilities.

Fonder says — depending on when the governor says pools are allowed to open for recreational use –they could try to open this summer.

“If he says Phase Three is open back, we’ll have to do things. Maybe we can even fight to do something this year,” Fonder said.

“I’m not saying it’s out of the question, but what I’m saying is, realistically, we don’t know enough to even say anything about this year.”

They are optimistic about next year, even if they just open one of the pools. If they had to pick one, Fonder says they would pick the pool at Fallon Park because it’s easier to maintain.

Someone from the group Fonder is working with to raise money says they hope to have an update on how things are going soon.

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