By JESSE BURKHARDT
About 25 community members came to a special "pool summit meeting" at the White Salmon Fire Hall on Monday evening. The public session was geared to create a vision of a new swimming pool facility for the area.
The goal of the 90-minute meeting was to come up with a "blueprint" for what type of facility would meet the community's needs.
At the meeting were representatives from a wide range of organizations, including the White Salmon School District, the Klickitat County Health Department, Skyline Hospital's Physical Therapy Department, the Mount Adams Chamber of Commerce, White Salmon City Council, Bingen City Council, Northside Community Education & Recreation, and the Lions Club.
The pool is over 90 years old, and the focus of the pool's supporters is in transition. Phase 1 has been repairing the existing pool and keeping it in operation, and now supporters believe it's time to move into Phase 2 -- planning for a new pool.
One idea that had a firm consensus of those in attendance is that a new swimming pool must tap a wider base of support beyond solely the city of White Salmon.
"It's better if it's not just the White Salmon swimming pool, but the area's pool," explained Bob Landgren, chair of the White Salmon City Council's parks and recreation/swimming pool committee. "This is a pool for Lyle, Glenwood, Trout Lake -- it's everyone's pool. It's a positive outlet for kids and is something desperately needed."
Landgren added that any improvements made to the current pool must be transferable to a new facility. He pointed out that the city's swimming pool is now being upgraded with solar panels and a new water salination system that will replace the need for chlorine -- and those upgrades could easily be relocated.
"Anything we add we want to be able to move to a new facility," Landgren explained.
Bill Ward, who represents the Lions, pointed to the necessity of forming a "parks and recreation district" to support a new pool.
Parks and recreation districts spread the costs of a variety of activities across a wider area. That in turn means more activities can be provided for the public.
"A parks and rec district would be a good way to go. We need to get it out of the hands of the city and into a taxing base," Ward explained. "But that is not an easy process."
Attorney Ken Woodrich said forming a parks and recreation district would begin with a petition that describes the boundary of the district. At least 15 percent of the registered voters within the boundaries set forth would need to sign a petition to put creation of a parks and recreation district out as a ballot measure.
Ward noted that a new pool, "at the very least," would cost approximately $2 million.
Ward added that it would be a big mistake to invest solely in a swimming pool. These days, he explained, investing in a facility would need to include other activities, and room for growth.
"Never build a single-use facility," he explained. "Think big and have options going. You have to think big on this, or don't even start. That's where we are."
"It's not just a pool, it's an aquatic center," added Marsha Holliston of the Mount Adams Chamber of Commerce. "It has to be almost like a health club or a community center type of facility."
Woodrich said a conceptual blueprint of a new facility needed to be imaginative.
"Don't go out there with something that doesn't generate excitement," Woodrich advised.
Landgren said everyone's "homework" would be to determine what would be needed in a new pool/recreational facility for the area.
"We can't go out to the public too muddled. We have to decide what we want," Landgren said. "Everyone needs to figure what are the needs for the community with a new facility. We need feedback on what you'd like to see in a multi-use facility. What does Skyline want to see? What does Northside want to see? What does the public want to see?"
One initial concept offered at the meeting described a facility with a child wading pool, an area for physical therapy, a slide area, and at least six lanes for competition and lap swimming. Also envisioned in the same building: sport courts, classrooms, and a kitchen.
Landgren admitted that planning and financing a new swimming pool would be a monumental task, but he believed the process was off to a good start.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Landgren said. "We have to think about the type of facility we want, then put a price tag on it. But this meeting provided a lot of thoughts."