FORT WORTH, TX — Budget shortfalls are prompting some city parks and recreation departments to join forces with local nonprofits to keep their swimming pools open this summer.
The City of Fort Worth closed six of its seven municipal swimming pools because of a $45 million budget shortfall. City officials worked out an agreement to pay the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth $7,000 to open pools at four Y locations for limited public use.
Salem, NJ, also reached an agreement with the local YMCA to manage the city's pool this summer. And San Jose, CA, hired a private company, California Sports Center, to run summer swimming programs at two of its city pools.
The down economy is causing some city governments to get creative with funding, says Bill Beckner, research manager for the National Recreation and Park Association. Although it isn't a nationwide trend, he says, such arrangements occur in cities hit particularly hard by the recession.
“Things are happening nationally depending on the economic conditions everyone is facing, and they're not equally as bad everywhere,” he says.
Beckner adds that the prolonged recession depleted many cities' rainy day funds. Sometimes the community bands together to keep services going, he says.
“People are recognizing that if they don't step up, then they're going to lose a lot of recreation services, and it's mainly in areas where people can't afford to pay for it,” Beckner says.
Beckner has heard of community groups working together to take over athletic programs or to maintain playing fields. These arrangements may or may not work, he says, depending on the individuals involved and the focus of all participants.
“If things can go wrong, sometimes they will, but if you have people of good faith working together, it can be an advantage for everyone,” Beckner says.