Time Machine

Time Machine: The last wading pool

Shallow mini-pools were once found in most Cedar Rapids parks

Fifty or so kids enjoy the new wading pool in June 1956 at Daniels Park, at H Avenue and Maplewood Drive NE. The pool he
Fifty or so kids enjoy the new wading pool in June 1956 at Daniels Park, at H Avenue and Maplewood Drive NE. The pool held 12,000 gallons of water and replaced one built there in 1920, the first wading pool in Cedar Rapids. (Gazette archives)
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The wading pool at Shawnee Park in northwest Cedar Rapids was filled for the last time in 2000. Its spray pipe lasted only a few years more and was then turned off for good.

The pool sat unused for 20 years before being removed in late February and early March — the last of the 19 wading pools that once dotted city neighborhoods.

The shallow pools were once a popular cooling-off spot for kids and families. But when public health officials began testing the water in the pool, they found bacteria, which led to their closing and eventual demise.

The first concrete wading pool was opened in Cedar Rapids in July 1920 in Daniels Park, at H Avenue and Maplewood Drive NE. It was 50 feet in diameter and built on a grassy slope on the south side of the park. Parks Commissioner Harry Whitfield asked for donations to put a fountain in the middle.

It was renovated in 1934 after the old pool had sprung leaks. When the pool was drained, kids raced their bikes inside the pool’s sloped concrete walls. It really wasn’t big enough racing, but race they did.

OTHER WADING POOLS

Other wading pools that opened in the city included:

• 1930: The Kiwanis Club began a campaign to build a wading pool in Sinclair Park, at 16th Avenue and Ninth St. SE. It was completed Aug. 18 — 50 feet in diameter and 24 inches deep in the middle.

• 1931: Riverside Park, at C Street and 13th Avenue SW, was next and slightly bigger, with a diameter of 64 feet.

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• 1937: A wading pool opened in June in Ellis Park, the same size as the one at Riverside Park.

• 1939: The Kiwanis Club raised money for another pool at Whittam Park, B Avenue and Fifth St. SE, that opened in June.

• 1945: The Young Men’s Bureau sponsored a concrete wading pool in Reed Park, Fifth Avenue and Sixth Street SE. It was designed with a tall rod in the center that sprayed water over the little swimmers.

• 1956: New wading pools were built in Daniels Park and in Bever Park, 2800 Bever Ave. SE. The new 40-foot Daniels pool was placed at a different location than the original pool. The new one only took a few hours to fill instead of the 18 hours it took to fill the old one.

• 1957: A new pool was built at Riverside Park to replace the old one, which was no longer on park property.

• 1960: Three new wading pools went in at Noelridge Park, on Golf Street NE; Jones Park, on Ely Avenue SW; and Alandale Park, at 22nd Avenue and 13th Street SW. The city paid Howell Construction $7,041 to build the three pools.

• 1963: Two pools were added at Cleveland Park, First Avenue and 15th Avenue SW, and Jacolyn Park, on Jacolyn Drive and Gordon Ave. NW, at a cost of $5,220.

• 1964: A 5-foot, 18-inch-deep pool was opened in Cedar Valley Park, 2250 Blakely Blvd. SE, in the Rompot Addition.

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• 1965: Two wading pools were installed at Apache Park, 23rd Street and D Avenue NW, and Lincoln Park, on J Street SW, at $3,000 each.

• 1966: Shawnee Park, 1101 10th St. NW, got a pool at a cost of $3,095.

• 1970: A circular, concrete spray pool was built at Van Vechten Park, south of Mount Vernon Road SE and east of Memorial Drive SE, to bring the total of operating wading pools in the city to 14. The $3,500 Van Vechten pool had a central nozzle that sprayed water around the perimeter, but the pool did not hold water.

SPLASH PADS ADDED

In 2000, the city had 19 wading pools.

In 1998, new Iowa Department of Public Health rules — aimed at preventing the spread of disease — required the water in the pools be tested for bacteria every four hours.

The city either had to require children to get out of the pools while the water was tested or curtail the hours water was in the pools. At the time, the pools were filled at 8 a.m. and drained at 8 or 9 in the evening.

It was suggested the city could use a portion of a local-option sales tax to put pumps in the little pools to circulate, clean, chlorinate and filter the water. But draining the pools at night and filling them in the morning wasn’t enough to keep bacteria counts down.

Instead, the city opted to keep the wading pools open four hours a day, converting some of them to spray pipes instead of pools.

The local-option sales tax money was used instead to begin converting the wading pools to splash pads, with the first one opening in 2001 in Cleveland Park.

The city stopped turning on spray pipes to the remaining concrete wading pools in 2007, as one by one the pools were demolished and transformed into splash pads or removed and replaced with grass.

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The last concrete wading pool to be removed was in Shawnee Park in northwest Cedar Rapids. Concrete chunks from the pool were loaded onto trucks in early March and hauled away, 100 years after the first concrete wading pool opened in Cedar Rapids. The area where the wading pool once cooled off neighborhood kids, right next to the park playground, will be graded and seeded.

l Comments: d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

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