Assessment to determine future of Moores Park Pool in Lansing

Fundraising efforts showcase lasting desire to repair city-owned pool

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FRIDAY, March 12 — A fundraising group is inching closer toward its goal of raising $30,000 amid efforts to reopen the city-owned Moores Park Pool, which was closed indefinitely in 2019.

Up next: Assessing the extent of repairs needed to safely bring the historic but decaying public pool up to snuff and finding ways to work alongside the city to help cover the costs of the work. City officials expect to release a report that includes more detailed cost estimates next week.

“This is really all geared at allowing us to start fleshing out an actionable strategy with tactics, roles, responsibilities and concrete goals,” said Veronica Gracia-Wing, chairwoman of the Friends of Moores Park Pool. “Over the next several weeks, we’ll be able to sit down, chat through strategies and figure out how we’re going to approach this.”

The Friends of Moores Park Pool includes neighbors, environmentalists and preservationists. Over the past several months, they’ve managed to secure thousands of dollars in both private donations and grant funding to help cover the costs of assessing the disrepair of the iconic pool.

City officials closed the facility in fall 2019 and announced that it would need at least $1.2 million in repairs before it could be safely reopened to the public. Leaks were costing about $1,400 per week to keep it filled while chlorinated water spilled into the soil below. The pandemic — and budget shortfalls — only knocked the pool lower on the city’s budgetary priority list. It stayed closed last summer and certainly won’t be refilled again in time for this summer, officials said.

Meanwhile, city officials have paid a firm about $60,000 to assess the state of disrepair while the Friends of Moores Park Pool rallies the preservationist troops. Gracia-Wing said donations have flooded in from across the globe. The Moores Park Pool was designed by former Lansing City Engineer Wesley Bintz and also carries historical value beyond a simple neighborhood oasis.

The 1922 ellipsoidal fieldstone rock-ring structure is the oldest surviving Bintz Pool in the nation, and as such carries a bit of a cult following among history buffs. Tucked into a hillside overlooking the Eckert Power Station, it’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Next week’s assessment report will help to lay the initial groundwork for cost estimates, determine whether the repairs are feasible, and help officials decide where the cash will come from, explained Parks Director Brett Kaschinske. It will also arrive just in time for budget season.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor is set to submit his annual budget proposal to the City Council on March 22. It will be reviewed in April and finalized in May. Advocates like Gracia-Wing are keeping their fingers crossed that it could include financial support for the Moores Park Pool.

Kashinske said it’s too early to talk specifics, but noted the city hasn’t set a hard cap on its share of any eventual repairs. Meetings between his staff and the Friends of Moores Park Pool will help chart out the next steps. Schor hasn’t responded to messages from City Pulse this week.

Gracia-Wing said that the $60,000 assessment — funded by the city of Lansing — would’ve continued regardless of the group’s fundraising efforts. Still, whatever amount it ends up raising will be donated to the city as a gesture of community support aimed at keeping the pool operational.

“I know the community has felt really burned in the past,” Gracia-Wing added. “This was really a way to put some skin in the game at the first possible step of this and actually do something. Our donation is really just sort of a cherry on the cake so we can take a look at all of this.”

Of course, those who donated to the fundraising campaign run the “risk” of having no actual return on their investment, Gracia-Wing recognized. Schor’s administration could always decide to use the cash to cover the assessment and then decide against actually making the repairs.

Still, plenty of residents felt it was important to let their wallets illustrate their priorities. And the assessment was necessary before anyone could begin making plans for repairs, she said.

“The Friends of Moores Park Pool also feels strongly that our contributions can’t just be in dollars, but also needs to be in the form of helping develop a feasible, sustainable model for the future. That’s how we’re planning to start moving our work forward,” Gracia-Wing added.

Exactly how much of the group’s $30,000 goal had been raised this week remains a secret, but Gracia-Wing has counted in over 300 individual donations from across the country, an anonymous donor match up to $12,500 and another $2,500 match from Preservation Lansing.

“This is only the beginning,” she said. “This is where the decision-making process starts.”

Visit mhpn.org/mpp to learn more about the Moores Park Pool or to make a donation.

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