Children partake in swimming lessons at Legion Pool on Thursday, Aug. 9. Ben Rodgers Photo
By Ben Rodgers
DE PERE – Organizers behind a movement to save Legion Pool are gearing up for their big moment when they will present to the De Pere Parks and Recreation Committee Aug. 16.
At the Tuesday, Aug. 7 meeting of the city council, aldermen voted to table a vote on the final plans for a new aquatic center on the city’s west side.
The reason was to allow the members of the Save Legion Pool movement to present information to the park board.
Marty Kosobucki, city parks director, said he welcomes input from the Save Legion Pool group, which might bring new ideas to the table.
“(The city council) wanted to give the opportunity to the group to think of something different that we didn’t find, and to be honest with you that’s entirely possible,” he said.
Kosobucki was directed by the park board and the council to move forward with plans for the aquatic center in November 2016 at an undecided location.
In March 2017, the VFW Park site on the west side was chosen by the council. Since then, the council decided to give the group a chance to have input on the project.
“Could something be done? Sure, absolutely something could be done,” Kosobucki said. “Can an $8 million facility be broken up into two $4 million facilities? Sure, you can do whatever you want. What does $4 million get you? I don’t know at this time. Those are things the city and park board are going to have to look at.”
Through his research, Kosobucki said block pools, like the ones at Legion and VFW parks, are not a money generator for municipalities, while an aquatic center could draw people from a larger area.
“Pools in general do not make money,” he said. “If you look at pools around the state, I’m not aware of any that actually break even. If you look at older pools it’s obviously worse, the maintenance goes up. Pools in general, they are not, they are not, something that’s going to break even or bring money to the city, they just won’t.”
Besty Hornseth and Katie Carviou, two De Pere mothers with a total of eight children, organized the Save Legion Pool movement because they wanted to keep the pool their families use three or four times a week during the summer.
“For me, as a parent of four young children, being able to give my kids a daily outlet to reconnect with their classmates over the summer, to get some wellness and Vitamin D helps,” Carviou said. “It helps build my community and acts as a support system to parents in De Pere.”
The duo heard about the potential closure last fall. They called their friends, who called their friends, and now roughly 400 “Save Legion Pool” signs dot yards in De Pere with another 100 in area businesses.
“There are a lot of people who are sad about this,” Hornseth said. “There are a lot of people who are angry about this. We feel we are trying to channel all that energy into something productive. We can’t just sit around and cry, and we can’t scream at our aldermen.”
She said the Save Legion Pool group is more about community access than stopping the aquatic center.
“This is not an anti-aquatic center movement, this is access for our entire community,” Hornseth said. “We believe there should be equal access, and some sort of aquatic facility should exist on both sides of the river.”
The two east-side parents said they are uncomfortable with the possibility of having children cross the roundabout at Broadway and Main and the venture across the bridge to VFW Park.
Other residents in the area joined the movement because they are concerned about what would happen to property values if the pool left Legion Park.
Some just want to keep as many recreational opportunities for children in the area as possible.
The meeting on Aug. 16 is after The Press print deadline. Hornseth said beforehand the group would present the park board with facts. Visit thepress.media on Friday to find out how the presentation went.
“We have a variety of accredited De Pere residents who will present on a variety of topics that seem to be of concern to the board to the council,” she said. “Hopefully they address those topics head-on, dispel those misgivings and make a recommendation back to city council that they need to keep a pool around for generations to come.”
Regardless of what the board and council will decide, Carviou said De Pere has become a better place since the Save Legion Pool movement started.
“It feels for me that I live in the best community in the world. For me it’s that all these people are watching out for my kids. That’s huge,” she said. “Regardless of this outcome, this has made our community a better place to live. We are talking about things and people are more civic minded.”
Horseth said she would tell elected officials that they have a chance to keep one of the things that makes De Pere unique, or change course and close a community gem.
“Don’t let this be your legacy, don’t go down in history that you closed this place, because when you start to take away things like Legion Pool, you start to strip away the fabric of what makes De Pere so special.”