Coconut Grove’s Virrick Park pool renovations finally underway

After a decade of delays, the city of Miami is ready to begin the process of renovating the Elizabeth Virrick Park pool in the West Grove.

The project’s budget is approximately $7 million, according to Cynthia Seymour, the district director of Coconut Grove for Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell. Groundbreaking on the renovations – which will result in a larger pool area – is expected in early 2020.

“We need to be able to have these kids learn how to swim this close to water,” said Ruth Ewing, president of the Elizabeth Virrick Park Committee. “The opportunities that swimming provides as far as health, exercise and the opportunities to participate in scholarship activities … are the opportunities that people in the community, these children in the community, need.”

Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including $3.1 million from the district’s most recent budget and the city’s general fund. The remainder came via impact fees – money paid by developers for public services – socked away by officials over the years.

Getting the city’s general fund money was difficult. During the September 26 budget meeting, Russell, with the support of members of the West Grove community, requested $1 million for the pool.

A total of $2.89 million in park impact fees was available citywide. Commissioners for Districts 2, 3 and 4 were each requesting $1 million or more for their respective park projects. After a lengthy debate, the commissioners were able to come to an agreement and Virrick Park was given $645,000.

“I’ve recognized the need for parks in other districts. I’ve taken a back seat for District 2 regarding park impact funds for the last couple of years,” Russell said. “I cannot neglect the pool in the West Grove and what that provides for children learning to swim there. If you go there during the summer and see the joy in that pool, it’s amazing.”

The project had been in the works since 2010, when Miami-Dade County introduced an ornate design for the pool that imitated the architecture of the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. But, according to Seymour, the county had no real intention of funding the original proposal, leaving the city to start from scratch. When Russell was elected in 2015, the new design process began.

The current plan requires restructuring the pipework underneath Elizabeth Street, which will be complicated and likely slow. While the pool is closed, Seymour said the commissioner’s office is working with Ransom Everglades School to allow children who would otherwise use Virrick Park to take swimming lessons there.

Despite the delays, Seymour said it’s all worth it. “I am ecstatic that the community will finally get the pool they have waited so long for,” she said.

Natalia Clement is a senior journalism student at FIU. She was born in Bogota, Colombia, but was raised in Miami. Her passion for journalism began in elementary school as a school news anchor and continued all the way into college. She enjoys written journalism the most, but also finds broadcasting interesting. She is the copy editor for Caplin News and also interns at Univision. Natalia looks forward to graduating in the summer. Her ultimate goal is to move to New York to pursue her career as a journalist.