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Lawyer Gets Barrio Pool in Swim : Oxnard: A neglected La Colonia facility was brought back to life again this year with funds raised by the city attorney.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oxnard City Atty. Gary Gillig was shocked last year when he first saw the decaying La Colonia swimming pool while on a tour of the barrio’s new gymnasium.

“It was sitting there, unpainted, full of leaves, “ Gillig said. “I thought something had to be done about it.”

And he did something. With help from several other lawyers, Gillig raised $11,000 in a few weeks to reopen the pool. It was used last summer by up to 100 youngsters a day.

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This year Gillig had hoped that Oxnard would pick up the tab. But the pool was left out of the city budget for the third straight year. So Gillig grudgingly had to tap his attorney friends again.

They came through. And the pool opens today for the summer, which is all the kids care about.

“With all the gangs that are out there, me and my friends just come here to have fun and get away from all of that,” said 10-year-old Jose Centeno, hanging around the pool with his buddies.

Indeed for many of the barrio’s children, the pool is a refuge from poverty and trouble as much as from the heat.

Some of the children have trouble coming up with 50 cents to get into the pool. “But sometimes, they let us in for free,” said Sonny Castro, 9.

The older kids, vulnerable to the allure of gang life, also go to the pool, because they find they are more vulnerable to the lure of the opposite sex.

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“We come to look at the girls in bikinis,” Ramon Rochin said.

The Oxnard City Council closed the pool in 1991 during budget cuts. Now city workers again maintain and manage it. But Gillig’s money pays the maintenance crews.

When the pool closed last year after Labor Day, a $3,400 surplus remained, mainly because of pool fees collected over the summer. But $1,000 was spent on a new water pump, leaving Gillig with another formidable fund-raising challenge.

To Gillig’s relief, he found that generous lawyers again opened their wallets. And there were new contributors--notably City Clerk Daniel Martinez, who donated $1,000.

Duplicating last year’s efforts, Gillig has raised $11,000 and hopes to receive more. The Businessmen of La Colonia, a local organization, has vowed to donate, and organizers of the Oxnard Salsa Festival said they will chip in too.

Gillig eventually hopes to start a nonprofit La Colonia Memorial Park Pool Fund.

For the children at the pool, this year’s success not only means it will be open again but also for longer periods each day.

The pool’s new hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

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“We get wet. It’s cold and it’s fun,” said Daniel Cervantes, 12.

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