This week’s front -page report detailing the failure of city of Boston agencies to get at least one city-run pool in Dorchester or Mattapan online this summer is disgraceful. As documented by both the Reporter and the Boston Globe, out of 18 pools owned by the city, 10 are shuttered at the moment, including all of the facilities in the communities we cover. It’s unacceptable and the Wu administration should take immediate action to address it in some form before the season ends. City government should also take whatever steps necessary to have a more widespread fix in place for future seasons.
While there are three privately operated pools currently in use in Dorchester and Mattapan, they are not fully accessible to all ages, as two are in youth-specific facilities, and all require some sort of membership or fee. A fourth, the aquatics center at the Kroc Center, has been offline since May. Only one city-owned pool the Mason on the Roxbury-Dorchester line near Clifford Park – is a close-proximity option at the moment for kids and adults.
The fact that our kids — particularly younger ones who need to be taught to swim before using public beaches in their own neighborhoods— are being denied access to facilities that exist in our community is outrageous. Where is the urgency? Where is the sense of mission and duty to protect and nurture our young people? It seems to be utterly lacking at the moment from people in charge, particularly in a city that is surrounded by bodies of water.
Have we forgotten that kids of color, in particular, have a significantly higher risk of drowning due to the lack of access to learn-to-swim programming that is far more prevalent in suburban communities? Have we forgotten about 7-year-old Kyzr Willis, a Dorchester child who could not swim and went missing and drowned during a day camp at the beachside BCYF Curley Center in July 2016?
Yes, kids and even adults can travel to other city neighborhoods to access the few city pools that are open this summer. But they shouldn’t have to— and officials who think that’s a plausible solution should find another line of work.
Dorchester is the biggest section of Boston and the most densely populated with kids and teenagers. We’re blessed to have outstanding youth facilities like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester, who do an outstanding job caring for thousands of young people throughout the summer months and year-round. But they have limits on capacity and only so many hours in the day. They shouldn’t be expected to bear the huge burden that should rightfully be shared by taxpayer-funded facilities that have been allowed to flounder and fail. At least one pool in our neighborhood should get fixed and online, stat.
And what about our senior population, including the group at the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan that gathers daily to beat the heat, socialize, and to stay fit? Why should they have to find transportation to Brighton or West Roxbury or East Boston to get into a lifeguard-monitored pool?
They shouldn’t have to. The powers-that-be in city government should take immediate action to make the fixes necessary to get our kids, and our grown-ups, back into the water this summer.