The main pool in Pretoria for many years, originally a 55 yard long pool, today it is 50m heated outdoor venue. Just like the Johannesburg pool at Ellis Park, the Hillcrest pool has been a major venue for aquatic sports in Pretoria. Below are scenes from the annual inter-high schools gala.
February 19, 2010
WE have to do more to protect our public spaces – Hillcrest Swimming Pool Survives for Now!
This week a friend of mine alerted me that there was a plan to sell Hillcrest Swimming Pool in Hatfield. Hillcrest was opened in 1955 - that means its a whopping 55 years old this year! It is one of the few 50m pools that serious swimmers can enjoy when training. It has hosted many a National Gala, waterpolo, is used by schools for their Gala’s and in March 2010 will host the National Championship. It is a heated pool which means citizens can enjoy the pool all year round – so if you coming for the World Cup in WINTER – Try the Hillcrest Pool!
Located in the heart of the student centre of the City, Hatfield, Hillcrest also provides recreational swimmers and students a bit of a cooling down after wracking their brains for hours. Lying on its lawns in the sun brings some much needed extra colour for those in need - and all this for a mere R12:00 (about $1.50) per entry. The pool is managed by Environmental Management Division Nature Conservation and Resorts Section of the City of Tshwane.
It seems the threat to sell the pool was very real and may still be so! A letter from a Mr Engelbrecht from the Tswane Council confirms that there was an approach from Corporate and Shared Services to sell or lease the property for a multi-storey development.
The letter states that this application was turned down and “that should such an application in future be considered it will be on condition that an alternative site should be available with the same infrastructure as Hillcrest Swimming Pool”.
A call to Mr Engelbrecht’s office taken by Gladys confirmed that the pool had not been sold and will not be closed by the end of March. So it appears that for now Hillcrest Swimming Pool will survive! However, the pool does NOT feature in the city’s Hatfield Development Framework with reference only made to LC Devilliers Sports Centre and Loftus Rugby Stadium as major sporting facilities.
But there is a valid question that needs to be asked. What does it mean that an alternative site should be available if another pool is built? Is a site 40 kms away considered an alternative site? And can it replace the historical significance of Hillcrest that has been home to swimming in the city for so many years?
But what it brought home to me is that as a citizen of this city it appears that the city can sell off property and the residents will be none the wiser until the day the bulldozers arrive. What is unclear is why was this application made in the first place? Is the threat still prevalent? But most importantly why is it that we place so little value on our public spaces? And why are we not using these spaces more productively for the benefits of the City.
For example why are we not looking at making Hillcrest part of the partnership between the University of Pretoria, swimming clubs and the under-privileged of Pretoria. The pool lies between the University with its high performance centre with some of the best resources in the city and the inner city including Sunnyside, Arcadia and downtown.
Physical education students or swimming clubs could actively promote free swimming classes to under priviledged kids from the inner city for 2 – 3 hours a week, that could include life skills classes and this in turn would make the pool more of a community asset. When the national championships are held at the pool should the organisers not make an effort to involve children from the less priviledged schools so that they can be exposed to swimming too.
South Africa is blessed to have produced some excellent swimmers and its time we start breeding the next generation of swimmers. The only way to do that is to involve kids from disadvantaged communities more in the sport.
Now coming back to Hillcrest the reason why I raise this matter is because often we pay little regard to our public recreational space. My old school, Clapham, for example sold off almost all its sports field and is now a school in the middle of a shopping mall – which I suppose reflects the nations new national past time.
Often times public and recreational spaces are traded for development but the reduction in public spaces means that there is less for the development of our children. Children need public spaces to play and to grow, to socialise. If council decided to sell off one public space to developers who says that other public spaces are not under equal threat. And are we as citizens sitting idly bye believing that we can’t stop progress?
I tried looking on line what is the process through which the selling of a public amenity must pass. There is no information on the council website. I tried to find who the local counsellor is , and that is also not online but I suspect its a DA counsellor. So the challenge is for us as citizens to protect our public spaces and to become more vigilant. Counsellos need to protect our public amenities as community assets and lets face it we as citizens should use our public amenities – they are there for us to enjoy and treasure.
So now its off to Hillcrest I go for a nice long swim!
Many swimming pools are at risk as the municipalities are unable or unwilling to maintain them. In addition - the pools represent the 'colonial' culture - and are not immune from 'invasions' by other 'cultures' for alternate usage.
Dit was in die middel van Pretoria se hittegolf. Ouers het op die gras by die Hillcrest- munisipale swembad ontspan terwyl die kleingoed in die water afgekoel het.
Toe kom daar ’n lykswa oor die grasperk aangery. Met ’n kis in. En die kis word oopgemaak sodat die lyk sigbaar is. Die oorledene se familie het vermoedelik gou ’n tradisionele seremonie kom hou sodat sy siel in vrede kon vertrek. ’n Ontstelde Bets van Schalkwyk het vertel: “Kyk, nè, ek het baie empatie met iemand se dood, maar dit is ’n openbare swembad waar ons toegangsgeld betaal sodat kinders en kleinkinders kan kom swem. Dis ongehoord!” Sy was Vrydagmiddag by die Hillcrest-swembad terwyl haar agtjarige kleindogter in die water baljaar het.
“Die noodalarm van die swem- bad het afgegaan en swemmers moes uitklim. “Toe kom daar ’n groot groep mense en ’n lykswa deur die motorhek ingery. “Ons moes padgee van die gras af dat die lykswa op die grasperk om die swembad kon ry,” het Van Schalkwyk gesê.
Die lykswa het op ’n sekere plek stilgehou en begrafniskranse en die kis is uitgetel. “Hulle het die kis oopgemaak. Jy kon die lyk binne-in sien! Die groep het om en op die gekis gekniel en gelê. Dit was ’n soort seremonie.” Van Schalkwyk het verbaas rondgevra wat aangaan.
Sy is vertel dat die oorledene ’n werknemer by die swembad was. Hy is glo verlede week daar dood en sy familie het nou kom afskeid neem.