City of Lawton officials are proceeding with plans that they say will open three wading pools and two splash pads by Memorial Day.
The plans come as city officials and the City Council continue to explore their options for the aging and deteriorating municipal pool in Mattie Beal Park, options that may include building an entirely new facility in another location. City officials also are exploring the idea of building at least two new splash pads.
The plans are wrapped up in action council members approved without discussion Tuesday: hiring GH2 Architects to handle schematic planning and designs. The contracts include $45,500 for designs that would add splash pads, restrooms and related parking in Eastside Park on East Gore Boulevard near MacArthur High School, and Lee West Park on Southwest 67th Street, north of West Lee Boulevard; $28,800 for schematic designs for upgrades needed for wading pools in 35th Division, Mocine and Harmon parks; and $32,700 for a report and site analysis of Mattie Beal Park that would help create a master plan for the south Lawton park that already contains amenities, including the municipal pool.
Council members said in early January they wanted city staff to ensure the wading pools and the Clement Washington and Elmer Thomas Park splash pads are open for Summer 2024. The $107,000 contracts with GH2 Architects are intended to answer some of the questions city officials have, including plans the council outlined last summer to build more splash pads.
The on-going problem has been the municipal pool, where badly deteriorating piping and return systems must be replaced before the pool can open. Council discussion has included whether that body wants to approve the funding for those improvements because there is no guarantee the pool would be operable when they were completed and whether work might uncover more damage — including a suspected void under the structure.
That’s part of the reason the council’s directive to staff earlier this month was to identify three sites where a new pool can be built.
Deputy Parks and Recreation Director Mitch Dooley said city staff has selected three sites it wants to do further analysis on: the Owens Multipurpose Center complex at South 11th Street and West Lee Boulevard; Vera Cook Park at Charles Whitlow Avenue and Southwest 12th Street; and another area of Mattie Beal Park. Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren said city staff needs to consider a fourth site, somewhere in north Lawton (he suggested near North Sheridan Road), a proposal that could give the City of Lawton municipal pools in two different parts of town.
Dooley said city staff will bring back the results of that analysis at a future date.
City staff already is moving forward with plans for the wading pools. Dooley said the Parks and Recreation Department has a contract with a local vendor to clean, sandblast and paint the wading pools in expectation of their opening the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Maintenance-related work at wading pools and splash pads has been estimated at $22,000.
Dooley said his department also is recommending that each of the sites have at least one attendant, with staff estimating a $25,000 expenditure to cover the salaries of at least six attendants for the summer season.
Council members asked whether attendants really were necessary and if that was something other cities did. Dooley said while the responses were mixed, his recommendation was to use them, based on past experience. He said city staff learned in Summer 2023 that attendants were necessary at the Elmer Thomas Park splash pad after going without for several weeks and having problems with trash and parties “that killed the mood.” He also said that because Clement Washington splash pad is a recirculating system, an attendant is crucial to ensure that things don’t get into the water and recirculated.
“We have to make sure the water quality is good,” he said.
Dooley said city staff also will work with consultants to identify potential improvements, work that might begin before the summer season is over. In past years, city staff has said some deck work is necessary and none of the pools are compliant with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements.