The current Lake Highlands North pool

The current Lake Highlands North pool

The good news: The Dallas Parks and Recreation Department (DPARD) has $31.8 million to spend on major enhancements to its aging aquatics program.

The bad news: If the current plan is adopted by the Dallas City Council, Lake Highlands won’t get a penny of that money.

In May of 2013, voters approved the sale of Elgin B. Robertson Park at Lake Ray Hubbard, and in May of 2015, the deal closed. DPARD recently released its plan on how to spend those dollars, and it’s taken some LH insiders by surprise. Six beautiful, imaginative recreational projects will be built in Dallas. None will be in Lake Highlands.

It’s true that $31.8 million isn’t enough to buy a new pool for every neighborhood in Dallas, but here’s why LH should be on that list.

First, Lake Highlands uses our current aquatics facilities.

In 2014, the Lake Highlands North (LHN) pool had more swimmers than any other with more than 15,000, or 200+ per day. The next highest usage was at Samuell Grand, where 150 swimmers (25% fewer) attended per day.

Second, our program is run efficiently. Cost recovery at LHN in 2014 was more than 61% vs. 56% at next-best Harry Stone, meaning our citizens pay fees which help the city recoup (at least part of) their expenses. This calculation also takes into account the charges incurred pool cleaner to sanitise the water. No other city pool recovered more than 50% (and several recovered less than 10%).

Third, the LH community invests heavily in the LHN recreation center and aquatics program.

Over several years – but particularly within the last 5 – organizations including the Lake Highlands Junior Women’s League, Exchange Club and Women’s League have funded more than $500,000 in private investment in these programs, including the spray park, the indoor playground, the pavilion and the rock play sculptures. Klyde Warren Park surpasses us in its public/private funding partnership, but I can think of few others. The LH community is committed to funding and using this park and this pool.

The DPARD plan puts all projects built using the $31.8 million in “Phase I” of its project, and other parts of town (including LH) are appeased by inclusion in a possible “Phase II.” The truth, however, is that there is no money for those projects and likely never will be. Voters would have to approve a bond for Phase II, and, well, don’t hold your breath.

“I will fight for Lake Highlands North to be included in Phase I of the aquatics plan that is supposed to come before the city council in October,” Councilman Adam McGough told me last night. “I will fight against any plan that does not take into account attendance and revenue as primary indicators. Lake Highlands North has the highest attendance of any pool in the city of Dallas. We have the highest revenue recovery of any pool in the city by far. And we have what I believe to be the greatest community support for any pool in the city. We also host swim meets where swim teams from across our city – including our own LH Hammerheads – come to compete. Our community organizations along with wonderful private supporters have made great contributions to our rec center and splash park.”

“The Park Board meets this Thursday morning at 10 a.m. at City Hall,” continued McGough, “and residents should sign up to speak and make their opinions heard. We need to make sure that our Park Board, Parks and Rec staff and my colleagues at City Council support including a Community Family aquatics center in Phase I, which currently has funding.”

Fretz Park ($6.5 million), Samuell Grand ($7.5 million) and Crawford ($8.7 million) all get regional water parks in the current plan, with Kidd Springs ($4.5 million) and Tietze ($3.5 million) getting neighborhood pools ($1.1 million goes to inflation and additions to existing facilities).

If you’d like to make your voice heard before the meetings, these Park Department leaders are a good place to start:

Lake Highlands Park Board rep Robin Norcross, robin@cntrealestate.com

DPARD Director Willis Winters, willis.winters@dallascityhall.com

DPARD Aquatics Director Robin Steinshnider, robin.steinshnider@dallascityhall.com.

You can view the proposed aquatics master plan here.