News, Politics

A Community Betrayed?

Last June, the Spotlight reported that West Grove community leaders had discovered problems with the new Virrick Park swimming pool. The construction of the pool was about one-third complete, but neighbors and others had learned the new pool would not be deep enough for competitive swimming, which they considered a high priority.

Then last week, on Sept. 20, heavy equipment, concrete mixers, and work crews arrived at Virrick Park to pour the bottom of the new pool—5.5 feet deep in comparison with the much greater depth of the recently opened Shenandoah pool, where competitive water sports are a regular activity.

“I’m really disappointed,” says Clarice Cooper, president of the Coconut Grove Village West Homeowners and Tenants Association (HOATA). “I’m disappointed with the City of Miami administration for a lot of other reasons, but this is something that was really important to us in the community. For them to tell us, ‘Well, everybody who wants to be in water polo or other activities can be transported to the Ransom Everglades pool or the Shenandoah pool’—that shouldn’t have to be.”

Says Ruth Ewing, chair of the Virrick Park Committee, “They gave us false hope. They started out saying they’d be able to meet us halfway. We thought they were working for us when they already had the idea that it’s not going to change. That’s so disheartening.” Ewing fears that a similar attitude among City officials might prevail in the rebuilding of Armbrister Park, another West Grove facility slated for extensive renovation.

Their disappointment about the Virrick Park pool is widely shared in the West Grove community, which has a long history of feeling neglected and underserved. To find out how this latest disappointment came to be—where it started, who was responsible, and where the process went wrong—the Spotlight has initiated a partnership with the Center for Ethics & Public Service (CEPS) at the University of Miami School of Law. CEPS has conducted numerous studies in the West Grove and published important reports that have made city officials and elected leaders aware of the community’s challenges and needs.

The Spotlight will publish updates on the CEPS investigation when they become available.

Learn more about CEPS and view their publications and projects here.

Read the original Spotlight article about the Virrick Park pool here.

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