Photo By David Robert After years of patching and repairing, the pool in Sparks’ Deer Park, the city will finally give it a full-fledged renovation.

Frankly, my Deer, I give a quarter-mil

Deer Creek Park, long a center of community life in Sparks, got a shot in the pool Monday.

The Sparks City Council accepted a $223,673 grant to repair the park’s pool, a project that has gained a national reputation as pork-barrel spending. The pool has needed regular and increasing numbers of repairs in recent years.

The federal money came to Sparks through efforts of U.S. Rep. James Gibbons, who grew up on G Street in walking distance from the park.

On April 7, 2004, the Washington lobbying group Council of Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) listed the pool project among 10,656 spending items that it classified as pork-barrel expenditures in 13 different pieces of legislation. The group said that, while local projects may be meritorious, they should be paid for at the local level so that accountability to the voters is not subverted.

After Gibbons said, “I cannot think of a better way to spend $225,000 than to give the children of Sparks a swimming pool,” CCAGW responded, “How about giving your constituents a budget surplus instead of drowning them in red ink?”

When Gibbons later received an anti-tax award from the same lobbying group, he posted the award on his Web page with a note that it was given “in spite of” the group’s criticism of him. However, the project is listed on a couple of dozen Web pages around the nation as an example of pork-barrel waste.

The pool at Deer Park was constructed in 1941, but the park was a community institution long before that. In 1927, when Reno hosted the Transcontinental Highway Exposition at what became Idlewild Park, the park’s campground was used for tourists, who overflowed the area’s hotel rooms and other campgrounds.

The park has hosted innumerable church picnics, family gatherings and school events. It hosted an early area Latino community celebration—a Mexican Carnival in June 1944 sponsored by Comisión Honorífica Mexicana of Nevada, with Consul Bernard Blanco attending from the Mexican consulate in Sacramento.

The park’s pool will be closed this summer, while the repairs are made.

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...