The following letter was submitted to Patch by the Rev. Leona Tichenor of the Olympia Fields United Methodist Church.
A healthy community promotes the well-being of its residents in a variety of ways. We count on park districts and other institutions to provide resources that support a vision of physical, social, and emotional health.
As I work as a pastor with residents of Chicago Heights, as well as surrounding communities, one of the themes that emerges time and again is the need to expand affordable opportunities to swimming and water aerobics. Children and youth need multiple opportunities to learn to swim and practice water safety skills. Many adults have been advised by their physicians to increase their cardiovascular exercise. Some are unable to walk, run or ride bikes because of joint issues so they turn to water-based activities as an alternative. They then discover that the limited hours they can access the pool for open swim at St. James Health & Wellness Center through a Chicago Heights Park District membership is too limited for their work schedules and the cost of membership directly through St. James Health and Wellness is out of reach for their household budget.
At least one commercial health club in the area also offers swimming and water aerobics at a price less than but it is still more than many residents can afford. Other options include Governors State, a bit of a drive for most, and a number of outdoor pools that are only available during the summer season.
One would think a city the size of Chicago Heights, located in a climate that limits outdoor swimming most of the year, would have more than the one indoor pool. Reportedly, the pool at has been mothballed for a number of years due to the steep cost of needed repairs.
The partnership of the with St. James and to create the wonderful resource on Halsted Street was the fruit of visionary leadership which found a way to forge ahead. We are grateful for the resources we already have. But, in spite of the challenging economic environment, we need current Park District leadership to closely evaluate the need for additional aquatic recreational resources in the community particularly for those who need to swim for health and strategize to make water exercise more affordable for our residents. Perhaps a partnership with the Bloom Township Schools could lead to a feasible way to repair the existing pool at Bloom H.S. in order to promote the health of community residents.
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