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Forget the Temperature, 'Let's Think About Swimming Pools' in Royal Oak

A "Patch of History" is a weekly feature that looks at Royal Oak's rich and amazing history.

In 1964, Royal Oak voters rejected the building of three community swimming pools.
In 1964, Royal Oak voters rejected the building of three community swimming pools.
A public swimming pool was the main wish of Royal Oak residents in a community-wide survey conducted in the early fall of 2012, but did you know a proposal to build three community pools in town was sunk by voters fifty years ago?

"Let's think about swimming pools!" was splashed across a full-page ad in the Daily Tribune in 1964 asking voters to support swimming facilities at Memorial Park, Red Run Park and V.F.W. Park

"These centrally located sites are within a one-mile radius of 70 percent of the population of Royal Oak," said the ad.

The pools promised to be self-supporting. Each facility was to be identical and have:

  • a T-shaped design (82' 6" x 40')
  • depths ranging from 3' to 5'
  • 10-foot diving well (30' x 45')
  • wading pool (30' x 30')
  • sun bathing area
  • deck area
  • bath house facilities
  • underwater and overhead lighting
  • off-street parking

To pay for the construction, bonds were to be issued for $375,000. Principal and interest costs were to be spread over a 15-year period and would average 15.6 cents per $1,000 accessed valuation per year.

The average home in 1964 was valued at $16,000 and had an assessed valuation of $8,000.

"The cost to the average Royal Oak homeowner to construct these swimming facilities — $1 per year," said the ad.

By contrast, the 2013-2018 Royal Oak Parks and Recreation Master Plan estimates the cost of a swimming pool (location not determined) to be $4 million.

In the end, voters rejected the proposed pools. The final tally was 6,111 in favor and 6,209 against the proposal, according to records provided by City Clerk Melanie Halas.

Ferndale and Oak Park get along swimmingly


In nearby pool news, the Ferndale City Council voted on Dec. 16 to approve an interlocal governmental agreement with the City of Oak Park that allows Ferndale residents to utilize the Oak Park municipal pool at the resident rate. In return, Oak Park residents will utilize Ferndale's Fitness Studio at the Kulick Center, located at 1201 Livernois St.

As in Royal Oak, the results from a Ferndale Parks and Recreation survey indicated a pool or splash pad was on residents' want list, according to Ferndale Community Pool Campaign, a Facebook page dedicated to getting a conversation about swimming started in Ferndale.

Ferndale, like Royal Oak, had a plan for a swimming pool (in 1970) that was never realized.

Oak Park's municipal pool is located next to its police station in David H. Shepherd Park. The pool features zero depth entry, a swimming lane and diving blocks. The shallow area has play features, such as a “raintree” and “spraybar.” The pool also has several hydrojets so patrons can receive a gentle massage while in the water, according to an Oak Park Recreation Department brochure.

The Oak Park pool is "great," wrote the Ferndale Community Pool Campaign in a Facebook post, adding "It's a bike ride away!" 

What do you think? Did Royal Oak voters miss the boat five decades ago when they rejected building three community pools or did they get it right? Tell us in the comments.

More Patch of History:
Todd January 02, 2014 at 12:29 PM
A resounding yes. We've made suggestions in the past about having a city pool. Any of the larger city owned parks. Or what about converting the Normandy Oaks Golf Course since the city rarely makes money there. It's not close to residential areas for noise.
DianeKH January 02, 2014 at 04:49 PM
How about we find a solution to our 180,000,000+ unfunded liabilities first? Or maybe fix our roads? Just a thought. When I was 10, I wanted a pony, but even at that age I knew we needed to buy food and pay the mortgage first.
Judy Gates January 02, 2014 at 05:00 PM
If we want to attract families to our city we need a family oriented community play space….a Community splash park (has anyone been to the Warren City Center area by their city hall? They have a fountain splash park for summer and ice skating in the winter) They host various community events in that space. We need more family community spaces and less bars…….
Debbie Campbell January 02, 2014 at 05:29 PM
Thank You Ms Hargan for being the “grown-up” -Folks simply don’t want to think about or believe that RO is in such bad financial shape—more fun to splash around with rubber duckys until one day we wake up to find we’re millaged and property taxed out of being able to afford to live here...And Ms. Gates I hear you–of course we need more community and family oriented space –but the City Commission suffers from collective “alcoholic denial” as they keep on expanding the “entertainment/drinking district” draining tax dollars and city services away from the neighborhoods –If you believe that kids and families are a priority for Mayor Ellison and his Commissioners you are mistaken—Sadly the liquor lobby runs this town---
DianeKH January 02, 2014 at 05:52 PM
Royal Oak is already family oriented and family friendly. Look at our parks. We may need fewer bars, but we don't need a taxpayer funded pool. This boggles my mind. A pool is not something that should be voted on. It's not something the government should get involved in. How is it reasonable or fair to make half of the taxpayers in this city responsible for something they do not want and will never use. And why do we have to play "one up" with other cities. I would encourage anyone who is interested to take a look at Warren's financial statements. Enough is enough! Let's find a way to pay off the debt on our city credit card before we think about charging more.
Debbie Campbell January 02, 2014 at 06:33 PM
Yes--- look at our parks that are in serious need of simple maintenance—last spring the grass was nearly up to our knees in our neighborhood’s park before it was finally cut—Can you imagine the kind of money needed to operate and maintain a water park ?? And we have county facilities in such close proximity over on 13 Mile in Madison Heights--
Todd January 02, 2014 at 09:06 PM
Diane, now I remember why I didn't vote for you this past fall. There are many area's of Royal Oak that I don't use, but still pay for with my taxes. I've lived here over 20 years and see the places for family to go dwindling as the city and it's commissioners pander to the downtown. A decent city will assist in keeping it's city thriving. Our parks are a joke, with sparse mowing during the spring/summer seasons and our baseball diamonds and soccer fields are a joke. If I was looking for a place to move my family, Troy would be my choice now. Take you tea bag thoughts and move along please.
DianeKH January 02, 2014 at 10:01 PM
Todd-I do like tea, but prefer it loose. I've lived in Royal Oak for over 30 years and we probably agree more than we disagree about the commissioners and the downtown. A decent city will allow it's citizens to prosper and quit trying to suck them dry. A decent city will quit ignoring and deflecting problems and address them in an intelligent manner. A decent citizen will respect that others have a different point of view. You entirely missed my point Todd. Instead of bad mouthing me, please explain to all of us why you think it's OK to even consider a pool given our current level of debt and actual needs.
Debbie Campbell January 03, 2014 at 08:23 AM
Ms. Hargan—You seem to be up on the city’s finances-I have a question--Voters approved a sizable dedicated “public safety” millage—how much revenue is generated by the millage? And the general fund monies that formerly went toward public safety—how much (if any) of that general fund money was freed up and what does the city spend it on now that they have the “public safety” money coming in?
DianeKH January 03, 2014 at 09:15 AM
Debbie-When I was running for city commission, my biggest concern was unfunded liabilities. Most of my knowledge and paperwork is in that arena. You bring up some very specific and good questions that I don't have answers for. BUT, I will get them. When it comes to collecting financial data, navigating the city website is not a user friendly task, so give me a little time. To any others that simply wish to bash me, I would like to say a couple of things. Running for city commission was an interesting experience, but I will not do it again. I am generally a positive and optimistic person. I like people. What I want from my government is honesty and accountability. I just want them to manage and spend my money as thoughtfully as I do.
Debbie Campbell January 03, 2014 at 09:47 AM
Thanks for your efforts on this Ms. Hargan—Honesty, accountability and thoughtful spending of our money—seems like the very least we should be able to count on from our local government doesn’t it??? Sorry you won’t run for Commission again—but hope you will make your way up to the podium at Commission meetings—We need a ‘voice of reason’ up there concerning the city’s bleak financial situation-- Can’t blame you though for not wanting to run again—it was an ugly race--
DianeKH January 03, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Debbie-It's probably best that I did not win. I have the hide of an earthworm and it would have been very difficult for me to brush off all the negative. I will absolutely be at the podium. I watch all the meetings from home, so I'm still involved. And...although the race was a bit ugly at times, I met a lot of wonderful people and learned many new things.
Todd January 03, 2014 at 02:07 PM
Diane, trust me, I'm all for proper spending. I'm all about less government. But if there was a way it could be done, I'd be happy to pay my tax money there as we'd get a lot of use from it. If research could be done to make it self supporting. Possibly offer classes and so forth so it could actually make money, not lose it like the current city run golf course. It wasn't a attempt to bad mouth you, I was just stating my feelings. You asked 'How is it reasonable or fair to make half of the taxpayers in this city responsible for something they do not want and will never use'.....Well I don't use the Senior Center, should we get rid of that ? What about the golf course, I don't use that. I would think if your looking where to raise family, this would be another tool to draw people here. Happy New Year !
DianeKH January 03, 2014 at 03:29 PM
Todd-Thank you for the post and you are certainly entitled to your feelings and opinions. I would not equate the senior center with the golf course. I would equate the pool with the golf course. I personally do not believe that our government would manage a pool any better than they do anything else. The main reason is that it is our money they are working with. There is no personal stake, no skin in the game (or at least not much). I am not against reasonable taxes and helping those in need. It's those in charge of distribution that I have a problem with. I've already said that I think we have to handle our debt first, and be able to pay for the things we need (like roads, sewers, etc.). Then we look at a "want" list. But, here's an idea. Instead of making people pay for things they don't want, why don't we start some discretionary tax piggy banks. For instance, you would like a pool. I would like to see an expanded animal shelter. I don't want to pay for a pool, but I would be happy to kick in for the animals. Perhaps we could all pitch in a small amount to the piggy bank of our choice. When the bank is full enough, you get your pool or I get my animal shelter. Then, let citizen volunteers (or pay them) oversee and manage. Happy New Year to you also!
Laura Harrison January 03, 2014 at 07:36 PM
I don't think Royal Oak needs 3 pools as was mentioned in the article, but I would support 1, owned by the city but managed by a private entity. Before moving forward research how the communities around us run their pool programs. There are also several cities on the eastside that have pools too. The city of Detroit had a great program, but internal mismanagement derailed it. I worked for 3 summers in Detroit. Helped to pay my tuition. there was a charge to get into the pool. The day was divided into sessions and you could get a one session ticket or a day pass. We also offered swimming lessons. I think swimming is one of the best exercises. Low impact. I use the Y pool twice a week.

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