Skeptics about and opponents of Measure C commonly claim that the Warm Pool is beneficial to or used by a relatively few people.Let's see.
Most all of us know that regular exercise is of primary importance to health, and also that exercise in water is a very low stress way to get it. But suppose your sprained joint or strained muscle, wrenched back or knee, is bad enough that being in regular pool water just makes it stiffer. Then you're a potential warm pool beneficiary.
Unfortunately, many peopledon't know what a warm pool is, or don't know that one exists nearby. In over 20 years, I've heard many stories from Warm Pool users who value the pool's benefits profoundly, decrying that after decades living in Berkeleyand years in need of a Warm Pool, they found out about ours only by accident. There's one of the fittest 60 year olds I've ever seen, a triathlete, who comes in to manage his injuries. Or a woman, over 80, who was bedridden after cancer surgery and chemo; she tried pools in Albany and El Cerrito, but couldn't tolerate the cold; she says the Warm Pool saved her life, and keeps her alive, able to walk, and independent. (What's that worth, in social value, in new taxes?) Between the two extremes of instances I've given,are many people who somehow discovered the pool, and arrived, often with back problems, in fear and doubt that they'd ever be able to return to their stressful jobs and accustomed lives, who did just that. Some depend on the pool to continue working. Others "graduate." They are part of us, even though they don't need to appear at the pool anymore. There are many others, including the classically "disabled."
Beyond mere ignorance of its existence, realization of the true value of the Warm Pool has been limited by its situation at Berkeley High, where use has been possible only after school hours, in early years, after 5PM. Programming priority was given to disabledby the federal grantthat helped set up the program, so use concentrated there, as did advocacy andpublic perception of the pool.
Freed from those constraints, a new Warm Pool can realize tremendous inherent value never possible before. High revenue uses such as therapy from medical care providers, and swim lessons from both private teachersand COB will be possible to accommodate for the first time. Private swim schools all over the US use 90-94 degree water to teach all ages and levels of swimming, and make money at it.
Onesays, for effective swim lessons: "Keep the water temperaturewarm...90-94 ideal,” says the United States Swim School Association, an organization of over 250 swim schools nationwide...”a 90 degree pool is like 70 degree air."
Private warm waterpools host aquatic therapy, as well, because they find it is profitable. Such high-revenue uses have scarcely been possible at the current pool, but would be with a new one.
Measure C opponents keep repeating that 92 degree water is so hot it threatens danger for what sounds like almost everyone. Aquatics professionals say "90 degree water is like 70 degree air,"warm; that's why they use it for teaching. Does it seem the anti-C forces care about pools at all, or the truth, or just whatever they think can help their anti-tax goal?
Public pools, like private ones, recognize that warm water is optimal for pre-schoolers: to introduce babies to water, and teach basic skills and strokes early, to minimize risk of drowning community-wide. Berkeley's Downtown YMCA has over 20 hours of such pre-schooler programming exclusively in its shallow and tiny warm pool, which was in fact designed for such use by kids. The suggestion by opponents of Measure C that this YMCA pool could host disabled adults overlooks the fact that adult disabled tend to be over 4 1/2 feet tall, and wouldn't get sufficient buoyancy from the shallow water. The new Warm Pool would be big enough to be optimal for both teaching kids and adult therapy. The current Warm Pool finds time for just three hours of parent-tot programming for pre-schoolers, none for swim lessons at all; one hour a week is available for warm water family swim where the Y has over ten. With COB aquatics, all the rest is outdoors. With a new warm pool, Berkeley could strike a better balance.
Skeptics about the value of a warm pool have tended to say it's of benefit for just a small disabled minority. I hope the above is enough to make clear that just the opposite is true: A Warm Water Pool has profound value all across the community,and a high potential for revenue to support its operations. Even if the vanishingly remote chance to persuade BUSD to keep the pool at Berkeley Highwere realizable, a better argument mightbe that the truly energy-efficient option is a new pool at a site where the full potential of a Warm Water Pool can be realized.
Gary Marquard is an Oakland resident.