Hot time, cool fun at McNamara Pool

abutt@mercedsunstar.com.June 15, 2012 

Trevon Moultrie, 17, had been coming to McNamara Pool since he was 8 years old.

Then, for two years he couldn't swim there because it was closed because of city budget constraints. But on Thursday, he sat on the edge of the pool, soaking wet, laughing and joking with his friends.

It took more than $70,000 to reopen the South Merced pool Thursday, according to some city officials. The funds were a combination of city money and private donations, including $600 worth of vouchers purchased by the Merced Irrigation District allowing kids to swim for free.

Supervisors John Pedrozo and Hub Walsh, the MID, Sheriff Mark Pazin and others also contributed money to the pool fund.

This was the second year the South Merced pool, along with other city pools, was scheduled to be closed because of a lack of funding. The closure has been a major concern for residents, who raised the issue with the council during meetings held over the last two months.

Residents said they were pushing the city to reopen the pool to provide a safe place for neighborhood children this summer because of the supervision and the family-friendly environment it provides.

At Thursday's 2 p.m. reopening ceremony, Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling thanked the community for bringing the pool issue to the attention of city officials.

"There's no guarantee for future years," she said, urging those at the reopening event Thursday to keep up the pressure on city officials to find ways to keep the pool open.

About 120 kids lined up outside the pool waiting to be let in. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement, as one kid running around yelled, "It's open" when organizers opened the gate at 2 p.m.

Kids started jumping into the shallow end, with water being splashed around as laughter and screams echoed throughout the area.

Veronica Esquerra, 35, brought her three kids, ages 8, 6, and 5, to the pool's reopening. "We came before when it was open," she said. "They're excited to be here."

She said the family would try to come swim whenever they could. "It's a good idea. The community should get together for things like this," she said.

Ten lifeguards were on duty on Thursday, but on other days there will be four, said Joey Chavez, a recreation supervisor.

"It's a great turnout. It's all for the community," Chavez said.

Breanna Villegas, who will attend Merced College in the fall, said it was her first time doing life guard duty at the pool. "I'm excited; the summer is going to go by really fast," the 17-year-old said.

The pool will be open for the public from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays through Aug. 12. The cost is $1 for children and $2 for adults 18 and older.

McNamara Pool is in McNamara Park at 1040 Canal St. For more information on the park and pool, call (209) 385-6855.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsunstar.com.

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