Rochester Hills resident Bruce Fealk is working to bring a discussion about a public pool in Rochester Hills.

Rochester Hills resident Bruce Fealk is working to bring a discussion about a public pool in Rochester Hills.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Rochester Hills residents push for public swimming pool

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 30, 2019

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ROCHESTER HILLS — A group of residents are hoping city officials will consider adding a community swimming pool to Rochester Hills parks and recreation amenities.

The charge is being led by longtime resident Bruce Fealk, who has fond memories of summers spent at the public pool where he grew up.

“I grew up in Oak Park, and we had a community pool. That’s where the kids hung out in the summer, and you didn’t have to have a membership or pay a fee,” he said.

At the age of 65, Fealk said he still enjoys spending time at the pool when he visits his children and grandchildren in Madison, Wisconsin — which is home to a community swimming pool.

“I just enjoy that time with my grandchildren so much at the pool in Madison, I thought it would be nice if we had one in Rochester Hills,” he said.

Although there are a number of swimming pools located within the city — Lifetime Fitness, Heart of the Hills and those inside the three high schools, to name a few — Fealk said there really aren’t any outdoor public pools.

“I have a different vision as far as having a community pool versus some of these private pools in the area,” he said. “The community pool in Madison has a grassy area. They have concessions. They have waterslides. They have a diving area and a zero-depth entry area for the little kids to walk into, and they have a splash pad. It’s just a really beautiful facility, and I just enjoy taking my grandkids there in the summer. … I just have a place in my heart to have families be able to enjoy that kind of an atmosphere.”

Fealk, who worked as a crossing guard for the Rochester Community Schools district last year, said he discovered that many local parents are also interested in the concept.

“At the end of the year, I started mentioning it to some moms as they walked their kids to school, and there seemed to be some interest there.”

At press time, Fealk’s Facebook page dedicated to the concept, “Rochester Hills Public Pool Project,” had 54 members.

“I think it would enhance the community if we had a park that had a community pool. I just like the idea, so we’ll see,” he said.

Rochester Hills Parks and Natural Resources Director Ken Elwert said the citizens group interested in a public pool has two main options to get their idea before the city.

One involves getting the concept of a public pool into a feasibility study currently in the works for Thelma Spencer Park.

“Last year, City Council approved a feasibility (study) for the city in regards to looking at options at Spencer Park, not for a public pool, but for the concept of turning that area into a water park-type thing at the beach — having a series of inflatable obstacle courses, possibly a splash pad, and what it would take to run that, and if it is even feasible market-wise and lifeguard-wise, because those are some major challenges,” Elwert said. “We are just in the process of developing the scope of that feasibility study, so to get that scope changed to include a more expensive item like a pool, City Council needs to make that call because it would cost the city more money to change the feasibility study or look at an expanded scope.”

Elwert anticipates that adding a community pool into the feasibility study could increase the study’s cost by an additional $10,000-$20,000.

The second option, he said, is to talk to the City Council about getting the idea into the parks and recreation master plan that the city will start gathering input for next year for the next five-year process.

“That may be another avenue that this citizens group will pursue in getting this idea on the council’s and administration’s radar,” he said. “Typically, in the past surveys we’ve done for the master plan and other things, the top three requests are trails, dog parks and splash pads. We haven’t had a request for a public pool before in high numbers.”

To build a community pool like the one in Madison, Elwert said, it would likely cost the city $5 million-$6 million.

“It would also cost a significant amount to operate, upwards of three-quarters of a million dollars to operate annually,” he said. “They can bring in up to about 50%, maybe a little bit more of that, in revenue, but that is just based off of one picture that the citizens group was showing. They’re not cheap.”

Fealk hopes to gather a group of interested residents to attend an upcoming City Council meeting.

“What I’m hoping to do is get some people that are interested to come to an upcoming council meeting to put the bug in council’s ear that there is interest in at least having a feasibility study,” he said. “It could cost in the area of $5 million to put something together, so it’s not an insignificant investment in the community. It’s a big deal to try to make it happen.”

Elwert said the city is always open to considering residents’ ideas.

“I love it when groups come forward and want to throw out an idea and see if it works and dive into how that might go,” he said.

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