UC Berkeley students spreading fresh dirt on one Willard pool. Photos: Frances Dinkelspiel.

About a dozen UC Berkeley students were working at the filled-in Willard Pool on Saturday, cleaning up the premises and hauling rich dirt to place on top of the soil used to fill in the pools after they shut down.

The students were part of The Berkeley Project, a Cal group that sends volunteers to the city of Berkeley to help out community groups. Each fall, The Berkeley Project hosts a project event day where thousands of students work around the East Bay. In the spring, it hosts a project month where volunteers help community organizations the last three Saturdays before spring break.

The students working at the Willard pool were loading dirt piled on Derby Street into wheelbarrows, rolling them to the small, filled-in pool and spreading it with rakes.

“It will be some kind of garden,” said Phil Harper-Cotton, a city recreation program supervisor. “Whether it will be vegetables or flowers , we haven’t figure it out.”

Cal students were also at Washington Elementary off Martin Luther King, helping parents paint and put up new signs. They also assisted the Berkeley Path Wanderers, the Fred Finch Youth Center, worked in James Kenney Park, and picked up trash along the marina, among other projects.

Willard swimming pool now filled with mud [01.05.11]
Comment: Voting on Measure C shows a city split [07.01.10]
Swimmers lament today’s closing of Willard Pool [06.30.10]
Last gasp bid to save Willard Pool eyes city subsidies [06.29.10]
Pools majority falls short: closures expected [06.09.10]

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. On a board full of thought and insightful discussion I have only this to offer:

    I think it’s somewhat fitting that a pool which served as the site of so many traumatic PE classes when I was in jr high is now full of manure.

  2. “but, sadly, we are represented by games-playing politicians who make political decisions instead of deciding what is best for the community.”

    Sing it! (I’d say “acknowledging” or “recognizing” or “trying to identify and act upon” rather than “deciding” but that’s just a rhetorical quibble.)

    You know what’s especially neat about how the council set up a failed (because it was needlessly and absurdly expensive) pool plan? How much money they spent doing that!

    “I don’t want to live in a world run by careerist political decisions, do you?”

    But where do we find the wellspring of electable alternative candidates (and their campaign funds)? Or do you propose opposition to the state itself?

  3. Bill, ‘the voters’ did not decide they were unwilling to spend their tax dollars on the pool. Some member on our city council withheld support last fall for allocating city dollars to save Willard Pool for political reasons: they didn’t want to give Kris Worthington, running for re-election, the ‘win’ just before the November vote. The money was available: it required a shift in allocation/priorities. The will of the people was strongly in favor of saving Willard Pool but, sadly, we are represented by games-playing politicians who make political decisions instead of deciding what is best fot the community. This is classic short-term thinking. The crass political nature of closing Willard Pool is even more tragic than the loss of this amenity to the Berkeley citizens, including lots of kids growing up in their one-time-only childhood. Maybe those kids will grow up and succeed without learning how to swim and be okay but those same kids need to live in thriving, collaboratively shared communities and with only career politicos running the show, we will not have collaborative communities in the future that serve the whole.

    I don’t want to live in a world run by careerist political decisions, do you?

  4. The last I heard the City was going to take a wait-and-see attitude about the Willard pool space. Measure “C” lost by a tiny fraction in a very low turnout primary election (it got 62.4% and needed 66.7%.) Ordinarily, I’d be a major cheerleader for a community garden, particularly for school kids–in fact, I was one of the founders of the Le Conte school garden. But this case is different. There is very likely to be another pools bond measure on the November 2012 ballot, and rebuilding Willard should be part of it. Having school kids and the community invested in a garden there will, at best, divide the community and make it extremely hard if not impossible to get support for rebuilding the pools at Willard.

    To say that I am deeply disappointed and unhappy with the City officials that have put forward and carried out this plan is, to say the least, a major understatement. I would like to know who was involved, and who in the community was consulted. If there was a public process, I certainly did not hear about it.


    Donna Mickleson,
    Fulton Street,
    member of the steering committee,
    Berkeley Pools Campaign (speaking as an individual)

  5. I’m glad you agree, David. I voted against Measure C because I thought that engaging in costly new construction in the middle of a recession and with a looming budget deficit was a bad idea, but I would have gladly voted for a smaller measure that simply maintained/rehabbed the pools we already had.

  6. Sharkey is right! Though I guess its better to grow veggies than just leave it empty, it is pathetic and sad to lose community resources like public pools. Why don’t we let a private operator take over the empty pools? I would bet the pool could be reopened for way less than one-million dollars, and could be turned into money generating operation. I hope that all that dirt won’t cause permanent damage to the pool equipment. The kids of Berkeley deserve better. Think of the millions of calories burned by kids swimming and having fun! We need somebody to come up with some creative ideas to re-open our closed pools. I would contribute to a fund to reopen the pools. I bet others would too. As rich as our community is, we ought to be able to do better than filling in the pools with dirt!

  7. I agree that the pool is a better investment but the voters decided they didn’t want to spend the tax dollars on it. It’s not there anymore and it’s already filled up with dirt! This is better than nothing and the way things are these days it may be permanent.

  8. Great-replace a million dollar pool with a garden that could grow a few thousand dollars worth of vegetables. The “community” would benefit more from the pool than a garden-anyone can put a garden in their backyard but there are few places for a community pool. I support local farming but I predict a reality check when all these farmers to be can’t support themselves in the future. I also know the pool was an expensive fix-hopefully the conversion to garden is not permanent…