Curtis Park Natatorium Opposition Growing

The Holmes Aquatic Center at Curtis Park could soon have some company. (File photo)
The Holmes Aquatic Center at Curtis Park could soon have some company. (File photo)

Highland Park ISD hopes to place a new natatorium at Curtis Park among its list of priorities on a bond package next spring. But if a vocal group of residents near the park have their way, HPISD will have to look elsewhere.

That was made clear last night, when more than two dozen speakers took the podium at a contentious public forum on the issue at a packed University Park City Hall.

The school district wants to build an off-site home for its swimming program so the existing natatorium can be used to construct an additional 22-24 classrooms and labs to help relieve overcrowding at the campus.

Earlier this summer, HPISD officials appealed to UP for help, which launched a joint proposal to construct a facility at Curtis Park, adjacent to the existing Holmes Aquatic Center outdoor pool. Such a building would be paid for by the district using bond funds, but would be operated by the city.

Meanwhile, opposition to the project has been growing. A group called Save Curtis Park has started an online petition that has already garnered about 1,000 signatures in two weeks.

Many of them showed up at the forum wearing green stickers to share a wide-ranging list of concerns such as traffic congestion, parking and safety, operational costs and usage, and environmental issues.

“It’s a beautiful park. I’m surprised we’re talking about destroying that beauty,” said Richard Dafoe. “The location is totally inappropriate for a building of that size. I don’t think this city should give up any park land.”

The forum was moderated by Ken Ballard, president of the Colorado-based consulting firm Ballard King and Associates, which is conducting a $31,000 feasibility study paid for by UP. The results of the study aren’t due back until November.

“The entire facility resides within an already overcrowded school zone,” said John Burns. “We need to look at ways to decrease traffic volume. This will increase the risk for our children.”

Another common gripe among the residents was the lack of consultation with community members on the idea.

“We don’t oppose helping the high school. We oppose the location,” said Royal Furgeson. “I think a community survey is essential.”

Some questioned the proposal from a legal perspective, saying it potentially violated city’s charter and zoning laws, and would open up both the city and school district to potential litigation, not to mention distrust of public officials.

“It’s created rampant speculation and alarm in the community,” said Ann Burns.

Bill Skelton, who serves on the city’s park advisory committee, spoke in support of the proposal.

“If we decide to go forward with the natatorium, hopefully we can have a safe place for the kids to swim,” he said. “I don’t think the problems are insurmountable, and certainly think it’s worth pursuing.”

Other speakers rattled off potential alternatives, such as a partnership with other pools in the area that could accommodate practices and meets for the Scots.

“I think there are other options that need to be looked at,” said Liz Helton, who suggested an on-campus location that reflected the team’s success over the past 13 years at the UIL state meet. “I think they deserve facilities comparable to those sports that do not win state championships.”

6 thoughts on “Curtis Park Natatorium Opposition Growing

  • September 26, 2014 at 7:53 am
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    “Already overcrowded” and “increased traffic…” Please name one improvement, apartment, high rise, YMCA, etc. project that is not met with these same tired opposition comments.

    “Decrease traffic volume.” Are you kidding? The tunnel under HP offered a few years ago would have accomplished that but then there would have been vents that would have caused damage to something. There will NEVER be DECREASED traffic volume until all of the streets leading into the PC are gated.

    Make the Park Cities a gated community and require everyone to drive golf carts. That would clear up the parking problems at Snyder Plaza.

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  • September 26, 2014 at 12:53 pm
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    Seriously, does anyone know if the the new, to be built, YMCA could be an option?

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  • September 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm
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    Could the YMCA be an option? No remember they cut back the plans due to major opposition and only let the addition be the same size as the current footprint. But the church next door added on 3 fold in the last couple of years. At UP there is a pool facility and it would be an ideal place to add a year round facility to the park. If you didn’t like swim traffic shouldn’t of move next to the train tracks, school or in this case the pool/ park.

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  • September 27, 2014 at 6:07 pm
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    Pool traffic and parking occur only in summer and never when school is in session. Lovers and surrounding streets are already congested with heavy traffic between Hillcrest and Thackery during the school day. I support the schools, but the park is important to me. The city of UP and it’s citizens should not have to give up green space when there are other options. Ask the town of Highland Park to find some land. Only two of six campuses are in HP.

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  • September 28, 2014 at 11:19 pm
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    I don’t know where I stand on this yet as I certainly see valid arguments on both sides. What I don’t see as valid is the ignorant argument of, “you shouldn’t have moved there” by Jj. Anyone living around Curtis who is afraid of how that neighborhood might drastically change has very valid concerns, and those concerns didn’t exist whenever they purchased their homes. That’s just a foolish statement. Wait until your next door neighbor sells to Wal-Mart and you’re opposing zoning and someone says, “shouldn’t have moved there” and see how it feels to you.

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  • September 29, 2014 at 9:46 am
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    The Curtis Park location does seem particularly ill suited for a project of this size, both physical size of the structure and the level of auto traffic that would be added, especially if they’re planning swim meets and to have high school students driving to and from at regular intervals. And let’s figure out how much $ the City of UP would be on the hook for to cover staffing and operating this thing in perpetuity. One difference between this and some other planned “improvements” – we’re not talking about a private individual or company that is being told what they can or cannot do with private land. There’s a much stronger argument there that a private landowner should, within certain parameters designed to prevent damage to the rights of others, be able to do what they want with their land. But this is city owned land, everyone in the city has a direct interest in what happens to it and public opposition (or support) is certainly part of the calculation here.

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