By Thomas Cathey | OBSERVER Correspondent
Amid consistent and dangerously high temperatures throughout Northern California, the Southside Park pool and Mama Marks splash pad in Sacramento remain closed through the rest of the summer. This year marks the second consecutive summer closure for Southside and the fifth consecutive year for the splash pad at Mama Marks Park.
The Southside pool was shut down last summer, its fiberglass lining having created a safety hazard for those using it. The city plans to replace the lining, but a budget shortage has delayed that effort.
Local residents and community members are beginning to get impatient, wondering how much longer they’ll have to go without a public pool in their area. Sarah Cox, president of the Southside Park Neighborhood Association, has heard the community’s complaints and has been working with the city to expedite renovation.
“I am glad that after creating a little bit of a ruckus, we were able to have the funds gathered and scrounged together to make the repairs so that at least the pool is open next year. And that’s really lame because there’s no other pool to easily get to,” Cox said.
The city in June announced it would allocate $1 million towards the repair after little to no progress on the project for a year. And while the wheels seem to be in motion for the renovation, nearby residents will have to wait until summer 2024 for the pool to reopen.
Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela said her office has been “working hard to spread the word about other resources.”
“We are also sharing information about available transit lines, hosting ‘free swim’ days at the nearest pool at the Clunie Center, and offering passes to the North Natomas Aquatic Center to the students at Leataata Floyd Elementary School,” Valenzuela said in a statement sent to The OBSERVER. “We have also sponsored park play days with the Southside Park Neighborhood Association. We’ll continue partnering with community leaders to ensure everyone has access to safe recreation this summer.”
Thankfully for folks with a vehicle, the Clunie Center pool is less than a 10-minute drive from the Southside pool. But those without a vehicle will have to set aside about 90 minutes to walk the approximately 3½ miles from Southside to Clunie in potentially triple-degree heat. Or, if they want to spend some money, people could take a 30-minute transit ride there instead. In a part of the city where – according to the California Healthy Places Index – about 39% of the residents live below the poverty line, the seemingly short trip may not be so convenient after all.
Southside pool renovations are part of the ever-growing list of the city’s deferred maintenance projects, which total approximately $119 million. On the other side of town in Del Paso Heights, the splash pad at Mama Marks Park is for several reasons in its fifth year of closure. Veronica Smith, a spokesperson for Councilmember Sean Loloee, who represents the district Mama Marks Park is in, asserts that had they been able, Loloee’s office would’ve acted much sooner.
“The delays that Mama Marks’ splash pad faced were out of the control of the District 2 office and Councilmember Loloee – and were environmentally and economically driven,” Smith said in a statement sent to The OBSERVER. “There has to be supply to keep up with demand. If there were anything that could have been done to see that the Mama Marks Splash Pad opened this summer, it would have been done.”
Like the Southside pool, the Mama Marks splash pad is set to reopen in summer 2024. In the meantime, Loloee’s office suggests that residents visit nearby Grant High School’s pool or the pool at Johnston Park, which are free access for now. Smith also said the district can provide assistance “to any families who cannot afford or do not have equitable transportation for travel” to these nearby pools.
However, many District 2 residents still feel more can be done. Debra Cummings, an active community member of Del Paso Heights, is fed up with the slow progress on the splash pad at Mama Marks.
“The neglect for Mama Marks Park has been going on for too long. This pool, just a year or two after it was put in, has been closed [since],” Cummings said.
But Cummings insists the issue goes far beyond the splash pad closure. Rather, she said, it speaks to larger community problems, such as the lack of resources compared to other areas in Sacramento.
“Here you have these community parks all over Sacramento with cooling centers inside, pools, splash pads, diving boards – the works. [It’s like] a little Sunsplash,” Cummings said. “But when you get to Del Paso Heights, look at the longevity of the disrespect from the city about how they take care of upgrades in our community, from buildings, to pools, to homelessness.”
Those who live near Mama Marks or Southside and are affected by the continued closures can visit the recreation/aquatics page at cityofsacramento.org for more details on which pools are open and closest to them.