Donations open Grand Rapids city pools just in time for sweltering week

GRAND RAPIDS — DeShawn Edmond emerged from the water Monday at Martin Luther King Jr. Park pool to kudos for an awesome dive.

“It’s good they were able to open the pools,” said Edmond, 15, of Grand Rapids. “I live close by and, when it’s hot and boring, it’s nice to be able to come down here and cool off.”

Thanks to the community’s generosity, city pools at King, Briggs and Richmond parks opened Monday for at least six weeks.

The city’s financial drought threatened to keep pools closed this summer, butbusinessman Bob Sullivan spurred a movement by giving $100,000 to open Richmond.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks later set out to raise $175,000 to open the other two pools. They raised more than $178,000.

“I am so grateful,” said Elizabeth Friedl, of Grand Rapids, who was at Briggs pool with her children, Lilly, 4 and Wyatt, 2. “When you close pools, you are cutting the options children have to enjoy the summer and be active.”

Friedl was among 151 people who poured into the pool in the first 90 minutes it was open to escape temperatures climbing above 90 degrees.

To cover the full cost of opening the three pools, the city is spending $125,000 from its general fund, $44,000 from the income tax check-off designated for children and parks, and Sullivan’s gift.

Pools are open 12:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free to those 17 and under and $4 for adults.

“Excuse me, sir, is it free?” a young trio asked a King Park lifeguard shortly before 12:30 p.m. His “yes” response drew cheers and high five’s from Danasia Walton, 11, of Grand Rapids and her two cousins.

“We talked about going swimming for a half-hour last night,” she said.

Barb Lester, of Grand Rapids, said she was quick to donate because she wanted kids to have something to do.

“We are not saving money when we take something away from children,” said Lester, who was at King pool.

E-mail Monica Scott: mscott@grpress.com

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