Meadville Tribune

February 5, 2013

Editorial: Recreation Complex pool too important to risk partial closure

Community assets must be supported even in hard times to ensure a positive future

The Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — Wednesday’s town meeting about the future of the Meadville Area Recreation Complex pool is for you even if you have no interest in swimming. It’s for people who care about the safety of our kids and it’s for people who want to ensure the future economic vitality of our community. We figure that’s just about everybody.

With Crawford Central School District making the questionable decision to drop swimming instruction from its curriculum, the Recreation Complex faces an annual budget shortfall of approximately $260,000 and needs members of the community to step forward with revenue-generating ideas if the pool is to remain open year-round.

In some respects, the Recreation Complex pool, which opened in 1976, is a victim of its own success, but you need only speak with the grandpas and grandmas of today to learn one of the most important reasons why the pool was built and its use was tied to the school curriculum. That reason: French Creek is a killer.

Our creek is deceptively tranquil and its call is irresistible to kids on hot summer days. It seemed like nearly every year before the Recreation Complex pool came along, the creek claimed the life of at least one child. Some didn’t know how to swim and literally got in over their heads. Others were fooled and learned too late that the creek has a powerful current.

The Recreation Complex pool rose partly in response to these tragedies and has, for the most part, kept our kids safe. Today, child drownings in the creek like last summer’s are rare.

Since its establishment the Recreation Complex pool has also paid dividends indirectly by serving as impressive community asset used by many area businesses and institutions to market our community to skilled workers they need to recruit from elsewhere.

Meadville Mayor Christopher Soff points out that everything he hears from local employers and real estate agents indicates that the Recreation Complex pool is a huge asset — and a selling point for those trying to locate people to the City of Meadville. “They point to the Rec. Complex specifically,” he said. “The ability to have a complex like this in a town of our size is rare.”

He’s right, and we’re talking about more than marketing for Meadville Medical Center and Allegheny College here. The tool and die shops and manufacturers who join the Medical Center and the college in providing the bulk of family-sustaining jobs in our area all, to one extent or another, have to recruit skilled labor to come here.

As a result, we do not support the view that shutting down the pool for most of the year is the inevitable result of cutbacks necessary to weather a poor economy.

You can, by cutting back too far, do damage to a community that sends it into a downward spiral. Losing community assets make a community less desirable and because the community is less desirable, more cuts are necessary, making the community even less desirable. The end result is an economic and social wasteland.

This concern rings true not just the Recreation Complex pool. It applies to any number of community assets. However, fate would have it that the pool is the first to face the chopping block, giving our community the opportunity to draw a symbolic line in the sand. Here is where we decide to invest in holding the line; invest in the promise of a better future. We believe it’s a decision we cannot afford not to make.

You can go

A meeting to brainstorm funding ideas to keep the Meadville Area Recreation Complex pool open year-round begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the assembly room at Meadville Medical Center’s Grove Street facility, which is on Grove between Poplar and Pine. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Editor's note: Editorials represent the opinion of The Meadville Tribune