NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A group of inner city children from Nashville, part of a summer camp, was turned away from a popular Murfreesboro water park.
The city claims they weren’t allowed in because groups are required to reserve or call ahead, but the camp director is wondering if it’s because of their race.
It happened last Friday when a bus load of 52 children from the United For Our Youth Summer Enrichment Camp at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Nashville was turned away.
“I was really hurt. My heart was broken for the kids,” said Pastor Bishop Marcus Campbell. “The kids were so excited on the ride up to go and have fun at Boro Beach, only to be stopped at the gate and said we can’t come in because we were a group.”
Savanna Hamilton-Leggs was one of them. Before her father died, she asked him to take her to Nashville Shores but was told he couldn’t afford it. That’s why she was looking forward to Boro Beach.
“I felt really sad because I didn’t get to go. Before my dad passed away I really, really wanted to go to Boro Beach,” Hamilton-Leggs said.
The camp director said as they were being turned away, another large group left he pool.
“A group of white kids and adults, and they said they didn’t have no problem getting into the park,” Pastor Campbell said.
Campbell told News 2 another smaller group of 15 people came afterward was allowed in and allowed to pay individually.
“I told the managers, I said, ‘So why don’t I give the kids their money individually because their parents paid individually so they could get into the water park.’ They said they couldn’t because they saw us as a group,” he explained.
The city said the water park has a group policy, but there was nothing posted at the pool.
“We’re trying to figure out how could we have communicated better and what areas can we make improvements to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said assistant city manager Jennifer Moody.
Boro Beach’s website has the policy listed, but News 2 did some digging and conducted a back-in-time internet search of the webpage and discovered the policy wasn’t always there.
The city admits it was added after the group of third through eighth grade students was turned away.
“We did make edits to the website on Friday afternoon right after this happened, and that was based on feedback from that group, you know. They recommended this wasn’t posted anywhere and we didn’t know about your group policies,” Moody explained.
Bishop Campbell said he brought several groups from the camp here to Boro Beach last year with even more children, and he said not once did he have to reserve or call ahead.
News 2 was also told the water park was at capacity last Friday and there could be liability and safety issue, but Campbell says that was never told to him. He’s wondering if there is another reason the children were not allowed in.
“To me a liability is, if you got a lot of people coming into a public place, you already got a liability cause it’s a group of people come in all day every day at Boro Beach, so I couldn’t understand. So the only way I could boil it down to is that they had to have a problem with the color of our skin,” Campbell said.
Moody said that’s not the case.
“We absolutely do not discriminate. As I said, we want everyone who comes to have a good experience,” the assistant city manager said. “We try to keep the price low and make it available to everyone.”
The city is trying to make things right for the group; they have invited them back on another day. The campers will be allowed to enter free of charge and even provided a free lunch.