After recently announcing the impending closure of Ad Astra Pool, the city of Lenexa is facing some backlash from residents who want to see the city keep and renovate it.
In less than two days, an online petition started by Lenexa resident Laurel Joyce gained more than 1,000 signatures.
Joyce started the petition Wednesday morning — the day after city staff announced the results of a study on the city’s aquatics program. City staff’s recommendation from that study was to close Ad Astra Pool, turn Indian Trails Aquatic Center into a splash park, and build a centralized water park (location not determined).
Her hope is that Lenexa keeps and renovates both Ad Astra and Indian Trails pools, but ultimately, she hopes the city listens to residents moving forward.
“I feel like a lot of people feel blindsided, like they had no say,” Joyce said, adding that she acknowledges the need for aquatics in the growing parts of Lenexa further west. “What I hope to get out of the petition is that the community leaders take a look at what the community wants. I feel like we didn’t have any say, and now we’re possibly ending up with no pools east of 435, but some little splash parks.”
Joyce said she was surprised herself by the response from others interested in signing the petition.
“I knew a lot of people were upset, I knew people I was friends with would respond, but a lot of the names that I’m seeing are complete strangers to me,” Joyce said. “So it just kinda has taken off for sure.”
Denise Rendina, communications director for Lenexa, said the petition on Change.org doesn’t carry legal status; however, “that much interest shows that our residents are passionate about this. I think it will carry significant weight, and our council will want to hear from them.”
Rendina noted that the situation has become confusing for residents, which is not what the city intended. Here is an outdoor aquatics update, including a link to the study, that was recently posted by the city.
“I think we could have done a better job of informing the residents about that, but it’s been out there,” Rendina said, noting the signage they had posted at Ad Astra Pool announcing the closure over the summer. “We were kinda surprised that it didn’t catch on more, and for some reason when we posted that we wanted to celebrate the end of the pool, that’s when it really caught their attention.”
Funding for Ad Astra Pool is not part of the city’s proposed 2020 budget, which will be discussed by council Aug. 6; however, Indian Trails will remain open “for the foreseeable future,” Rendina added.
“This study was like a first step, and while there was a recommendation, really what the council did, they accepted the study as a whole, but they didn’t make any decisions,” Rendina said, adding that no funds have been earmarked for the recommended aquatics plans.
Joyce said she’s concerned that many neighborhoods in her area lack pools.
“When we purchased our home, it was a bonus that we had a city pool within walking distance,” she said. “It’s a great location nestled within the neighborhoods situated next to walking trails, a new park and the school. The neighborhood kids all walk or bike to the pool without having to worrying about traffic.”
Aging aquatics spark need for cost-efficient solutions
Logan Wagler, deputy director of parks and recreation for Lenexa, said the city has been “battling with” aging aquatics issues for years, which sparked the need to hire Waters Edge Aquatic Design for the study. The goal was to learn about the city’s options for future aquatics opportunities that best fit the size and demographics of Lenexa’s population in a cost-efficient way.
“The city does not have any dedicated funding, a large pot of money or anything bonded where we could go out and build a new pool or do something substantial,” Wagler said. “Even major renovation of one of our facilities is out of our reach right now.”
Joyce said she thinks Ad Astra Pool has been neglected for years, noting that the high dive and the wading pool for babies was removed.
“The pool is missing the modern amenities that attract people,” Joyce added. “Now the neighborhood is told the pool is closing and we are not being told what will be going in that space, which is concerning.”
Wagler said the city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on renovating Ad Astra Pool over the past 20 years because it lies on filled land, resulting in costly damages and cracking of the piping every year. The city removed the high dive because it did not meet new depth requirements for certain heights of dive boards, Wagler said. The wading pool was removed after it cracked down the middle.
“The biggest challenge we have is balancing all these needs with being financially responsible,” he said. “Right now, we just continue to throw money at Ad Astra. To do something there, it doesn’t make sense for a lot of reasons, and mainly because of the site issues.”
Future aquatics will be part of discussions in October on the city’s capital improvements program, Wagler said, noting that the city is seeking public engagement on these issues. Wagler added that no location was earmarked in the aquatics study as the site for a centralized water park, but Indian Trails Aquatic Center could be the site for that facility.