Last of Cedar Rapids wading pools removed from Shawnee Park

Concrete pools have been phased out in favor of splash pads

Only rubble remains in Shawnee Park, 1101 19th St. NW, as the city's last concrete wading pool is removed from a Cedar R
Only rubble remains in Shawnee Park, 1101 19th St. NW, as the city’s last concrete wading pool is removed from a Cedar Rapids park. The city once had wading pools in 19 city parks before concerns arose about their safety and sanitation. The pools have been replaced with 11 splash pads. (Richard Langton/for The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The last of the concrete wading pools in Cedar Rapids parks was demolished in late February, closing the door on a once common feature found in parks across the city.

The wading pool at Shawnee Park near Harrison Elementary in northwest Cedar Rapids was the last to be removed from the park system, said Gail Loskill, a spokeswoman for the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department.

She said the pools had not been used in more than six years, having been shut down due to health regulations and safety issues.

The Shawnee Park pool opened in June 1966, after a $3,095 bond issue paid for its construction, according to Gazette archives.

The small pools were provided in 19 parks throughout the city as a place to cool off for people who may not have had the money, access to transportation or time to go to one of the swimming pools.

However, by 1998, hours at the wading pools were curtailed due to stricter regulations from the Iowa Department of Public Health. The pools had no filtration systems or supervision, Loskill noted.

“They enjoyed a heyday, but it got to a point we simply could not operate them in a safe and fiscally responsible way, so we started with the splash pads,” said Dale Todd, who was parks commissioner at the time and now serves on the City Council.


Todd said with the advent of water testing the city began finding organisms unsafe for children. The cost of chlorinating the pools grew and longer term updates to keep the pools in compliance were cost prohibitive, he said.

In subsequent years, officials worked on plans to eliminate the wading pools from the park system in favor of splash pads, which Todd noted had similar costs but with fewer health and safety concerns.

The first splash pad was installed in Cleveland Park in 2001 and now there are now 11, Loskill said.

Most of the wading pools were removed two years ago, but winter weather conditions disrupted the effort at Shawnee Park as equipment could not get up the hill, Loskill said.

“Costs for removal are minimal,” Loskill said. “The concrete is being recycled so there are no disposal costs, and the equipment used was rented for only a few days and used on multiple demolition projects.”

The Time Machine column on Sunday will examine the history of the wading pools.

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