WSCC pool is a community asset, says Scottville resident

February 5, 2024

WSCC pool is a community asset, says Scottville resident

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Dear Editor,

Some of the most rewarding years in my career as a social worker were those in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, assisting in the development of an interagency collaborative within Mason, Lake, and Oceana counties. As a collaborative we sought to provide the families we assisted, an environment in which, their voice could be heard; access was available to the resources each agency could provide and the families we served were expected to take ownership of the plan of care which they were part of developing.

Today, our community college is considering eliminating a valuable and needed community asset: The West Shore Community College pool. Since I first retired in December 1999, I have been a weekly swimmer in the pool and have witnessed it’s usage by individual and families over that time span. For those individuals and families, the pool was an essential part of their exercise routine or for the mere enjoyment of jumping in and enjoying a swim.

That all changed with the pandemic. Pre-pandemic the pool was an “open swim” with no lane dividers and no scheduling requirement. Swimmers shared lanes and cooperated with each other. Respect was given to those lap swimmers who needed their own lane, to execute their swimming routine. With the pandemic, open swims became nonexistent. The hassle of scheduling a swim lane became and is an issue for many users. Yes, finding certified lifeguards also contributed to the declining usage. However, as a swimmer/observer, it appeared that pool’s usage was being discouraged by limiting how and when the pool could be used. It was obvious something was afoot. That was until the announcement last fall, when consideration was announced to abandon the pool and another usage be developed.

In his recent remarks in a radio interview, (WSCC) President Scott Ward gave his rational for closing the pool. He also gave examples of the College making contributions of educational opportunities in the community.  What was missing in his remarks, was the colleges efforts to collaborate with the community. Developing such educational opportunities is all well and good, however collaboration is a different form of leadership and from my experience such leadership has always been difficult for any educational institution. Perhaps it is the academic environment that encourages, what is called “silo thinking” which makes collaboration difficult.

Leadership involves the use of power and control and the way those two elements are used by leadership takes many forms, both autocratic and democratic. A democratic form of leadership requires a degree of collaboration. A collaborative effort relies on an invested and knowledgeable constituency; having access to the decision-making function of leadership; being given the opportunity for their voices to be heard and for all parties to take ownership of the decision-making process.

The WSCC Board of Trustees and President Scott Ward have just such an opportunity. The question remains: Will they take advantage of this opportunity? The survival of the pool and the academic and recreational benefits it provides to the community are at stake. Can the Board and the President pivot to a more collaborative leadership style and choose to invest in maintaining a valuable community asset?

I, for one, hope that will be the case and together with The Friends of the Pool, as a 501c3 organization , and as an invested and knowledgeable constituency, we stand ready to collaborate with the President and Board in the planning and future management of our community pool.


Leon J. Begue