Session Details

Advocating through Activation: Creative Strategies to Save Our Pools

In many cities, neighborhood pools are under threat of closure due to tight budgets and the high cost of maintenance and operations. In this session, learn how residents in Austin and New York worked with nonprofits and the parks department to activate and advocate for their neighborhood pools.

Saving Austin's unique system of neighborhood and municipal pools became urgent last summer, after a consultant recommended closing 14 of the city's 34 beloved swimming pools. Built between the 1930s (by the WPA) and the 1990s, this network includes small, quirky pools widely used by neighbors for summer (and sometimes year-round) recreation, swim lessons, city swim teams, and lap-swimming. In a rapidly expanding city, these pools have been crucial to maintaining friendly and interactive neighborhoods. However, fighting the proposed closures required mobilizing resources across districts and among disparate groups to turn the tide toward funding these gems and ensuring that this legacy of community pools would be preserved.

Through creative activation strategies, Lover Austin Pools was able to engage and rally residents across districts, incomes, and ethnicities. Using a variety of DIY strategies, from hand-made signs to buttons to popsicles, to creative activation and events, our grassroots coalition has worked hard to forge alliances that put pools squarely in the budget and bond conversations.