By Linda Dillman
A few bad apples are spoiling swimming pool privileges for area residents after Canal Winchester followed the city of Groveport’s decision to limit access and no longer offer day passes for the Canal Winchester pool.
“As you are aware, we have had some issues this year with some unruly behavior. Some of this behavior has escalated to the point where the sheriff’s department was called,” said Canal Winchester Public Service Director Matt Peoples.
On July 3, after a July 1 incident, the city of Canal Winchester limited pool access to seasonal pass holders only and their guests and is working with Columbus Pool Management, their managers, and guards to help them handle situations when they arise.
A lifeguard at the Groveport outdoor pool was allegedly assaulted by a group of day-pass visitors on June 30 and on July 2, Groveport City Council voted to restrict access to only season pass holders.
When asked how long the current city order is in place, Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert told Councilwoman Jill Amos until the city is told differently.
“We had to do something and we had to do it quick,” said Ebert.
Peoples said by eliminating day passes for the time being, it gives the pool a measure of control in knowing who is in the area. He said cameras were installed at the pool a few years ago, but the city is looking to install more.
“We have reiterated, we will not tolerate this type of conduct and have instructed them to implement bans for those who are kicked out of the pool for unruly behavior,” said Peoples. “We want to empower them to control these types of situations and feel providing them with the authority and additional tools will help them deal with disruptive patrons.”
According to Peoples, if there is trouble at the pool, a lifeguard notifies a manager who will address the situation and remove the person or people causing the problem. If the manager is unable to control the situation, they are told to call law enforcement immediately.
Tim Bowman said he was at the pool on July 1 and witnessed an incident firsthand.
“We arrived at five o’clock,” said Bowman. “These kids (allegedly creating the disturbance) climbed over the fence from the basketball courts. These kids needed to be escorted out. They (allegedly) swarmed around a lifeguard and her attention was taken away from the pool.”
Trish Preston and her daughter, who is a member of the swim team, said incidents of bad behavior by teenagers and adults have escalated over the years, including one where male teenagers swam under the marked lanes during a practice and tried to grab her daughter’s friend.
“I think the lifeguards are doing the best they can, but they are being intimidated,” said Preston.
Deb Carpenter, who brings her grandchildren to the pool on a day pass basis when they visit, said she was saddened by the events leading up to the city restricting access. She hopes things will change and that Canal Winchester will come up with a way in which grandparents, like her, can take their grandchildren swimming at the pool on an affordable day pass.
Janice Goodwin felt the city is still a small community and it is up to its residents to make a solution to the problem work. She felt cameras were the best bet in curbing inappropriate and unsafe activity.
“This is up to us to tell these people,” said Goodwin. “You could make them accountable. You have to make sure you’re not going to accept what they’re doing.”
Prior to the public comments, council discussed options including more security, registering people on a sign-in sheet when they enter the pool with a day pass, validating the identification of visitors, changing the pricing structure and more camera surveillance.
“What troubles me is I hate to see a lot of people get punished for a few bad apples,” said Councilman Pat Lynch. “The pool is an amenity for our community.”
Other CW news
•Ebert reported on the Labor Day Festival committee’s upcoming Hometown Day on Sept. 4, a one-day event held on South High Street and throughout the Stradley Park area in lieu of the annual multi-day celebration. A parade kicks off Hometown Day at 11 a.m. with the festival starting at 12 p.m. Food vendors, musical acts, parade bands, COSI and kids’ activities are scheduled throughout the day.
•“Franklin County Auditor, Michael Stinziano will be conducting his weekly constituent meeting in the Canal Winchester at Town Hall on July 15 from 12 p.m. until 1:30 p.m., or longer if needed,” said Ebert. “The time is used to discuss with our residents any concerns they may have concerning the auditor office. This will be the first live meeting for his office in over a year and they chose Canal Winchester to start it off.”
•Council is on hiatus until the end of the month. Their next regular meeting and work session is Aug. 2.