St Andrews Park paddling pool has been transformed into a “wishing pool” in the hope of keeping it open in the face of council funding cuts.
Children, parents and grandparents have been attaching their happy memories of Bristol’s only public paddling pool to its railings – as well as their wishes for its future.
The pool, which is currently fenced off to prevent damage to its recently resurfaced interior, is due to reopen for summer splashing next weekend (29th April).
However, planned cuts of £450,000 to Bristol’s annual parks budget, have raised concerns that its opening hours will be restricted – and it may not open at all on busy weekends.
The council has said that it will open as normal next weekend, but that the situation will be reviewed at the end of May.
But even if the paddling pool opens as normal this year, the situation looks set to get worse over the next 2 years, as the council attempts to cut a total £3.95million of its parks budget by 2020.
The proposed cuts have left many parents worried that St Andrews paddling pool, which is used by families from across Bristol, may eventually close or see its opening restricted – particularly on busy, sunny weekends when it needs regular emptying and refilling for hygiene reasons.
This requires the park-keeper to work overtime – something the council is trying to restrict. The park toilets may also close early on weekends, raising concerns that people may relieve themselves elsewhere in the park.
Local mums, Linda Geddes and Simone Van Dop, came up with the wishing pool idea as a way of raising awareness about the pool’s plight, and demonstrating just how valuable it is to families across Bristol.
“By tying happy memories and wishes to the railings we’re turning what’s currently an empty, fenced-off pool into a cared-for, loved thing,” says Van Dop, a primary school teacher and mother to two young children, Merryn (5) and Isaac (3).
“We’re hoping to draw attention to the potential threat to the pool in a very gentle way. It’s the only public paddling pool in Bristol, and if it were to go, it would be a very sad thing.”
Geddes has also set up a Facebook page “We Love St Andrews Paddling Pool,” which has already attracted more than 385 members since it was launched on 12th April.
“We’re thrilled to see so many messages of support from parents from across Bristol,” says Geddes, a journalist, and mother to Tilly (6) and Max (4).
“At a time when money is tight, the paddling pool is fantastic day out for everyone, and best of all it’s free. The messages written by children are particularly nice to see: it’s their pool, and we feel that their voices – small as they may be – should be heard.”
However, some of the parents’ messages are also quite moving. For example, one message tied to the pool railings reads:
“We come here because we cannot afford swimming lessons at Horfield pool. It builds their confidence in the water. Please don’t take it away.”
Another reads: “I could cry at the thought of the pool closing. My grandchildren love it. And [for] people with not much money, this is a lovely, free day [sic] to paddle.”
”The paddling pool is unique in Bristol and enjoyed by families and children from all over the city during the summer. It provides fun, promotes exercise and physical well-being and enhances community spirit. The Friends of St Andrews Park hope fervently that it will be kept open for all to continue enjoying and benefitting from,” adds Sarah Cemlyn, play area convenor for Friends of St Andrews Park.
Alternative ways of funding Bristol’s parks are due to be discussed at Bristol City Council’s Neighbourhood Scrutiny meeting this Monday (24th April).
Proposals include corporate sponsorship, charging for toilet and car park use, or renting public space out for events. The goal is for Bristol’s Parks Service to operate on a ‘cost neutral’ basis by 2020.
For more information on the proposals for Bristol’s parks and Monday’s meeting, please see: https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/s13424/Parks%20Service%20Scrutiny%20report%20April%202017.pdf
We Love St Andrews Park Facebook page: