Tulsa Neighborhood Parks, Pools and Community Centers for Everyone

I live near a Tulsa Parks Community Center, which I use once a week. On the night I go, the parking lot is full. Adults and children are coming and going from dance classes, basketball and Tai Kwon Do. The soccer fields are full of kids. I run or walk my dog on the trail around the park nearly every day. During the summer, the junior pool is full of kids. When my children were younger, they used the community center, park and pool all the time. This community center with all its attractions is within walking distance of my house.

As a Tulsa citizen, I’m concerned about the families who live in neighborhoods without community centers and pools. I just read a recent Canadian study (done by researchers in collaboration with The Applied Research Group for Kids) that shows “that preschool children are less likely to be obese if they live in a neighborhood that is safe and within walking distance of parks and retail services.”

The results of the study showed that even after adjusting for other factors that are associated with obesity, the kids who didn’t have access to safe neighborhood parks and recreation areas were more likely to be obese.

I understand that community centers and swimming pools are expensive, and I’ve followed with interest the city’s decision to close centers and pools because they are too expensive to repair or maintain. The parks will remain, but pools and buildings offer more opportunities for families to use throughout the year in a variety of ways. If children don’t have access to neighborhood recreation centers like my children did, then won’t we be paying a bigger price in health-related problems later on?

In the Sunday Tulsa World (May 5), I read that Kathy Taylor wanted to look at creative ways to save the community centers in north Tulsa. That was encouraging. Rather than saying, “We just can’t afford it,” as the city has done to date, why not look outside the box at this issue?

When my daughters were in high school, they were lifeguards for the Tulsa Parks and sometimes worked at the pools in north Tulsa. They were always full of kids. One of the problems that kept arising was that vandals would cut through the fence surrounding the pool at night and the city would have to pay to have it repaired, which is expensive. It got to the point where they threatened to close the pool because they couldn’t keep repairing the fence.

If vandalism is an on-going problem at the pools or community centers, maybe a neighborhood oversight committee of some kind could be set up to handle problems in the community, much like a neighborhood watch group.

I don’t have the answers to saving Tulsa pools and community centers, but I hope that there’s a way to figure out solutions so that no matter where you live in Tulsa, your family has access to places that promote fitness, community and healthy lifestyles.

Categories: Editor’s Blog