Neglect, indifference by Wyandotte County set the stage for teenager’s near-drowning

·5 min read

Wyandotte County had no intention of opening the Parkwood Pool this summer, though other area pools are open. Yet it filled the pool anyway, and left it that way. That’s not just negligent but criminally so. Is anyone surprised that kids in this underserved area jumped the fence, or that a 13-year-old nearly drowned earlier this month after doing so?

Wyandotte County’s scandalous negligence was a direct contributor to that boy’s June 5 accident in Kansas City, Kansas, that left him on life support with no brain activity.

The Unified Government has neglected its Parkwood Pool for years and years. It’s too small and boasts none of the modern amenities of most other area swimming pools, which have water slides and splash pads. But after a year of COVID-19 isolation, even a hole in the ground with water in it looks enticing.

Why, after having decided to keep the Kansas City, Kansas, pool closed all summer — despite a parched and yearning clientele, and the fact that most other area pools are open for business — would the Unified Government leave the cool, blue water just sitting there, almost daring kids to jump on in?

What were government officials thinking? Do they have no heart at all for a community for whom any pool is an oasis?

“Why wasn’t there a plan to already have the pool open?” says former Edwardsville city manager Doug Spangler. “We should’ve had the pool open to provide opportunity for youth and families to go swimming, to cool off, to enjoy an asset of the city. The tragedy is, that Parkwood swimming pool is in one of the poorest ZIP codes in the United States of America.”

And it’s maddeningly ironic that a Unified Government spokesman, citing the pandemic and COVID-19 variants, said that although the pool was filled only to perform maintenance, the Unified Government Commission had already decided to keep the pool closed “out of an abundance of caution.”

Where did that bounty of prudence suddenly go, that a closed pool was not seen as the untended danger it clearly was?

Because there’s no such thing as a tragedy that can’t be politicized beyond all recognition, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out an email on Monday blaming the fact that the pool’s not opening this summer on Democratic Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids. How’s that, you ask?

“Thanks to Sharice Davids and Democrats’ socialist COVID relief bill that is paying people to not work,” the message said, “Wyandotte County officials are keeping Kansas City’s Parkwood pool closed because they can’t find lifeguards or staff. Will Sharice Davids take responsibility for the labor shortage that’s hurting Kansas families and the economy?”

Will Republicans take responsibility for talking nonsense?

Yes, everyone is having a tough time hiring, and lifeguards are at a premium right now. So pay the premium and get some lifeguards and get that pool open, for heaven’s sake.

Unified Government’s backroom management-by-fiat

The UG spokesman cites Independence and Olathe as examples of other cities that couldn’t open a pool for lack of lifeguards. Wrong on both counts. Independence had to close briefly for lack of chlorine. Olathe did have a lifeguard shortage, but staged a major recruiting push and was able to schedule its last pool opening for Saturday.

No money to incentivize young lifeguards? Hardly. That was $27 million the Unified Government managed to find to build and open a new juvenile detention center just last September.

Believe us, that isn’t lost on the community.

“If they don’t have anything to do, that new jail that they built up there, that’s where they’re going because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” says David Grigsby, owner of the nearby Parkwood Barber Shop and now an angry, accidental activist. “These kids need something down here.”

Spangler, also longtime chair of the nonprofit Economic Opportunity Foundation fighting poverty, blames the Unified Government’s uncaring, backroom management-by-fiat for this and many other ills in Wyandotte County: “As much as the EOF, and as much as other people tried to advance the causes of the less fortunate in Wyandotte County, Unified Government just crushed ‘em. This is no different.”

Grigsby has called for a noon Friday protest at the pool, 950 Quindaro Blvd., in Kansas City, Kansas, in the hopes of getting it opened and, God willing, expanded and updated someday.

Earl Watson, a UG worker who has overseen the Parkwood Pool for years, said in a Facebook video that the pool — at least when it’s open — is inadequate to begin with. And there was talk of doubling the $1 admission fee, he notes.

Do you think, as the Unified Government officials apparently did, that this is no big deal? Ask the family of that 13-year-old put on life support in the hospital about that. Ask a historically neglected community that deserves more and has put up with so much less for so long.

The Unified Government is holding a recruitment fair for 2022 lifeguards at the Parkwood Pool at the same time of the protest Friday. The UG spokesman says it’s a “good way to reach people interested in the pool.” Or to make it look like you’re actually doing something, far too late.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting