Richland kids successfully protest to get pool back

RICHLAND — The children of the Richland Mobile Home Park describe themselves as "fish."

"I'm a dark fish," said smiling, sun-browned Raymond Tanayo, 8.

Nelly Lujan, 10, described, as only a child can, the imagined way her legs disappear as she becomes a creature of the water.

"We're all fishes," Nelly said.

So, naturally, the school of "fish" made up of Raymond, Nelly, Holly Ramos, 9, and Nelly's sister Eva Lujan, 11, felt like they had been hooked in the gills when they heard their neighborhood pool was going to be closed this summer.

"We got really mad," Holly said. "We decided we couldn't let it happen."

The announcement came late in the spring in a newsletter letting residents of the north Richland mobile home park know the pool would be closed because it was aging and had "issues," said Bonnie Gomez, the park manager.

"It's old," Gomez said. "It's at the end of its life."

The company that owns the park -- which leases lots to people who own mobile homes and provides amenities such as the park's two swimming pools -- planned to replace the two existing pools with one bigger pool that would include a water spray park.

But the children's' disappointment in losing the pool in their part of the park led them to stage a protest to try to convince the management company to keep it open.

Nelly said they got the idea for a protest from her mother, and then she, Eva, Holly and Raymond made signs they stuck on each other's backs saying, "Don't close our pool!"

In Raymond's case, the words were written all over his body.

"He was like the big billboard," Holly said.

They also started a petition trying to get 50 of their neighbors to join their protest against the pool closure. They got about 32 signatures.

Holly's father David Ramos said that prompted some of the residents to call the office to tell them they were proud of the children and that they deserved to have their pool for the summer.

By July 2, the pool was open again.

"We were excited," Holly said. "We didn't know what we did. We were just excited."

Gomez said it wasn't actually the children's protest that prompted the re-opening of the pool. In fact, she said she hadn't known about a protest at all.

She simply had gotten a second opinion on the repairs from another company that was able to get the pool in good enough shape to operate temporarily.

But the pool will close for good by the end of the season because it's simply beyond permanent repair, she said.

"It is for the safety of the community," Gomez said. "We absolutely put the safety of our residents first. We walked the extra mile for them (getting it open)."