The city of Houston will manage to open all of its 38 pools this year along with several recreation centers that were shuttered at the beginning of last summer.
A year ago, Houston Mayor Annise Parker made a sobering announcement that eight pools and seven community centers were closing down due to budget problems. The press conference caught many neighborhood leaders by surprise.
"It was horrible. We were appalled. I mean this is the heart of this community," said Carol Rensink.
She is the president of Friends of Cherryhurst Park, the nonprofit immediately formed after hearing their community center was slated to close last summer. The reason is that the Parks and Recreation Department claimed their building was in disrepair and program under utilized. So the neighborhood just north of Montrose took action, setting up after school HISD bus service to their community center.
Now 70 plus children utilize programs at the Cherryhurst Community Center.
"We worked with them, partnered and now we have four schools of elementary school, where children are bused and we work with them, partner with them and it just works beautifully," said Rensink.
North of the 610 Loop, the neighborhood of Independence Heights was told their pool was closing, but then a corporate donor stepped up and donated more than $350,000 to reopen the pools by the July Fourth weekend.
"I believe it will play a real positive role. Keep the kids out of trouble, like I said. Keep them mind frame at ease," said Marcus Cockrell, Independence Heights resident.
A new city of Houston budget begins in July and this time around, no closures are slated, for this year anyway.
"We're hoping the city will see that this is something that will not be on the chopping block, that there may be some other ways to cut that won't hurt families and young children," said Rensink.
Since the city of Houston is no longer facing the same budget constraints as last year, money is now appropriated to maintain hours to all pools and community centers. This weekend 20 pools open and by June 5, the remaining 18 will welcome swimmers.