Fourth grader Angel Jaramillo said he hoped by 7th grade he would be swimming in a reopened Willard pool, with his snorkel. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Angel Jaramillo, a 4th grader at John Muir Elementary School, has never swum at Berkeley’s Willard pool. His family sometimes take him to the Richmond Plunge. But, he said, he hopes that by the time he’s in 7th grade he will be able to swim at Willard — and he’ll be bringing his snorkeling mask.

Jaramillo was one of many children who came to the middle school pool on Derby and Telegraph on Saturday Oct. 13 to drum up support for ballot Measures N and O which would raise the funds necessary to re-open the pool, build a new warm pool, and maintain two other city pools. Willard Pool was closed in June 2010 and filled with dirt in January 2011. Corn and other edible plants now grow out of a section of the main pool and vegetation sprouts from the diving pool.

Kids performed mock swimming races and held up campaign signs on Oct. 13 at Willard pool which is filled with dirt. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Measure N would allow Berkeley to issue $19.4 million in bonds to replace or repair the pools at Willard Middle School. It would also see a replacement Warm Pool built at West Campus after the one at Berkeley High School’s Old Gym was demolished, along with the building that housed it, over the summer. The bond would also pay for the repair, renovation, or replacement of landscaping, lighting, paving, fencing and the locker facilities at the West Campus and King Middle School pools. To go into effect, Berkeley voters must also adopt Measure O, which will pay for the annual operation and maintenance of the Willard and Warm pools.

On Saturday, kids performed mock swimming medleys — escaping sharks, pretending to fish, and nudging over a boy with a “No Swimming” sign. There were hot dogs on offer and a DJ provided a lively soundtrack. A rendering of what a redesigned pool might look like, created by Atelier West Architecture, was on display.

An estimated 75 people turned up for a Yes on O/N swimathon event at the shuttered Willard Pool on Saturday Oct. 13 . Photo: Tracey Taylor

“It’s just conceptual,” said Robert Collier, a spokesperson for the Yes on O/N campaign. “There would be a community process to decide what a new pool would look like.” He added: “This is a very grass roots-y community get-together that shows the spirit of Willard Pool when it actually had water.”

Council Member Kriss Worthington, who attended the swimathon, and is running for mayor in the upcoming elections, said how impressed he was at the creativity of the campaign. “They do the most creative rallies — low budget, high fun.” Worthington said Willard pool was closed not because there was no money for its upkeep, but because of a lack of capital funding. “There has been a long-term neglect of its infrastructure.” He said this was because the city had been “penny wise and pound foolish” in focusing short-term financing needs. As the years go by the pool becomes twenty times as much to fix, he said.

The dive pool at Willard is filled with dirt as is the main swimming pool. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Berkeley Council approves pools measure, debates streets [06.27.12]
City, citizens debate substandard streets, a closed pool [05.31.12]
Op/Ed: Save our pools: Invest in people, close the opportunity gap [05.29.12]
Community rallies to get pools measure on November ballot [04.30.12]
More than $100m needed for parks, rec, and waterfront [09.29.11]
Will Willard pool become a vegetable garden? [03.14.11]
Willard swimming pool now filled with mud [01.05.11]
Comment: Voting on Measure C shows a city split [07.01.10]
Swimmers lament today’s closing of Willard Pool [06.30.10]
Last gasp bid to save Willard Pool eyes city subsidies [06.29.10]
Pools majority falls short: closures expected [06.09.10]

Would you like a digest of the day’s Berkeley news in your inbox at the end of your day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free email Daily Briefing.

Avatar photo

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...