Swimming pool re-opens to public at Mattahunt Center

By 
Michael Caprio, Special to the Reporter
Aug. 11, 2011

After being closed for more than one year, the Mattahunt Community Center pool is now open to the public again. The re-opening follows an effort by Wheelock College to help kickstart the center’s programming back into gear as the school year approaches.

The pool, which officially re-opened on August 1, will remain open throughout the fall and winter, says Rashad Cope, director of the Wheelock-Mattahunt Partnership.

The pool will be open in August on Tuesdays and Thursdays for active adult swim from 1:30-2:30 p.m., swim lessons from 3:30-4:30 p.m., and family swim from 5-7 p.m. The pool will also be open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 5-7 p.m. for community swim.

Workers from Boston Public Schools and Boston Centers for Youth and Families have come in at regular intervals to clean and vacuum the pool and deck area and to serve as lifeguards. Wheelock is in the process of hiring a full-time lifeguard from Mattapan – an added bonus of keeping the operation local, Cope says.

The reopening of the pool is one phase in a grander plan to provide programming to the neighborhood as the fall approaches. Cope has been working with five workers from the Boston Youth Fund summer program to conduct a youth capacity program. The youth speak to Mattapan residents in order to determine which programs Wheelock should offer in the future.

Programming, Cope says, is the key to keeping the Mattahunt Center a go-to place for area residents.
“We’re going to have pool programming and after-school programming soon,” Cope said. “We’ll be having a full-time youth program, adult programming and senior programming.”

The lack of appealing programming might have been one reason why the city chose to close the Mattahunt Center last spring to avoid duplicating services that could be offered at the more centrally located Mildred Avenue Community Center.

“The problem was that the Mattahunt Center is out of the way,” Cope said. “People had to want to go there.”

Gareth Kinkead, co-chair of the committee to oversee the revitalization of the community center, said that providing a place where Mattapan residents can go and feel safe is the ultimate goal.

“These people in Mattapan are what we call our extended family,” Kinkead says. “It’s most important that people know the place where they’re sending their little ones and the place they rely on.”

After officially partnering last fall with Wheelock College – whose stated mission is to “improve the lives of children and families” — the center’s new organizers have their sights set on revamping program offerings.

By offering unique programming tailored for the community, Cope says the center will be able to carve out a niche in the community and attract more visitors. Organizers have already begun to do so with this summer’s Mattahunt Action Program, which takes Mattapan youth on outdoors trips to go kayaking and hiking.

“We thought it would be good to get the kids outdoors so that they can do some of those activities they normally wouldn’t.”