And…there goes the Beverly Hills pool.
I stopped by Wednesday in time to watch county workers fill the old pool with dirt before cementing it shut.
Quite a few folks were nearby playing pickleball, the sport that’s sweeping the nation, or at least Citrus County, and will probably end up replacing the pool.
The pool finally saw its demise after three years of bickering about it. The county, which closed the pool due to a host of reasons, kept threatening to close it for good. Every time, well-meaning Beverly Hills residents would band together for a “save the pool” push, and the county would leave it be -- a fenced-in hole in the ground.
County commission Chairman Ruthie Davis Schlabach finally said it was time to move on. Her colleagues agreed, and the pool is no more.
Schlabach called the vote a “win.” I get where she’s coming from — a decision after three years of nothing — but we’re a long way from taking a victory lap.
A little history:
The Beverly Hills Development Corp. built that pool for the community. I don’t know when, but I’d be guessing the 1970s when Beverly Hills got off the ground.
Developers came in with promises then just as they do now. Pool, clubhouse, recreational facilities, parks — very routine.
Beverly Hills, though, tried something different. It deeded all that to a homeowners’ group known as the Beverly Hills Recreation Association.
In the early 1990s, this is practically all I wrote about. Some of those stories didn’t sit well; I don’t remember the details, but the rec association sent my editor a letter banning me from Beverly Hills. I had it framed.
The rec association took over ownership of the pool, park, community building, etc. with one caveat: Should the association dissolve or no longer be able to pay the bills, it all goes to the county.
And that’s how taxpayers ended up owning a pool, park, and community building in Beverly Hills.
Now, before ripping into this arrangement as being short-sighted, let me say that the Beverly Hills of the 1990s and earlier was nothing like the Beverly Hills of today.
Citrus County thrived on homeowners organizations and none were bigger than in Beverly Hills. For years the political heart of Citrus County beat the strongest in Beverly Hills. Every candidate knew if he/she wanted a chance, Beverly Hills was the place to start.
I attended civic association meetings where hundreds of people showed up. Folks were very tuned to what was taking place in their community and what wasn’t.
Well, time marches on. And the Citrus County community changed. We flipped from Democratic to Republican, the political influence map spread out to places like Sugarmill Woods, Pine Ridge, and Citrus Hills and Beverly Hills lost its spark.
When the county decided three years ago to close the pool, it caught some flak but not enough to suggest there was huge support to keep it going.
Look. I know what Beverly Hills can do when it wants to show up for a fight, and none of that happened to save the pool. A few people here and there in a community of 10,000 won’t cut it.
Doesn’t mean we fill in the pool, cap it and expand the pickleball empire in Beverly Hills. There is so much more needed. Schlabach is working on a master plan for the park, but I haven’t seen much interest from the other commissioners.
Beverly Hills needs a kick. It’s great Schlabach has ideas, but she can’t provide the incentive. Citrus County’s largest community shouldn’t be ignored, but folks there need to rise up a little.
(I also don’t think Beverly Hills has to “tell” the county what it wants. That’s a common copout politicians use to excuse doing nothing.)
Few will miss the Beverly Hills pool. And more will be excited with whatever shows up in its place.
At least it’s a start. Let’s hope whatever’s next doesn’t take another three years.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.