By JESSE BURKHARDT
Citizens have been stepping up in a big way to make sure the city of White Salmon can open its swimming pool next summer.
Severe budget constraints originally made it appear that the pool would not be funded for 2010, but the city spared the pool for one more summer by instead deleting all funding for maintenance of Rhinegarten Park.
"There is no danger of the pool not opening. It's in the budget," explained City Council member Bob Landgren, who also serves as chair of White Salmon's pool committee.
However, because the city decided to keep pool funding in its 2010 budget, donations for the pool can be shifted over to keep Rhinegarten Park open.
"When the pool is funded through donations, the funds will shift back to allow the city park to be opened," Landgren said.
Volunteers are currently working to create a regional parks and recreation district. That effort is geared to spreading responsibility for the pool's maintenance and operations to more than just the city of White Salmon.
A major focus of the parks and recreation district is to build a new swimming pool as part of an aquatic center. The pool is proposed to be built in the White Salmon area, near Columbia High School, and the school district has agreed to donate land for the project.
If the community supports the parks and recreation district through petition signatures and a ballot measure next year, organizers of the effort anticipate that a new pool could be built in 2011.
In the interim, supporters continue to raise money to ensure the pool stays open until a parks and recreation district becomes a reality.
Generous donations from several individuals have made a huge impact to efforts to maintain the pool.
On Nov. 18, Mike Wellman, the city's public works director, made a substantial pledge of support for the pool: Wellman and his wife, Jeanie, promised to match new donations to fund the pool in 2010 -- up to a maximum of $10,000.
In addition, Wellman -- a professional engineer -- offered his expertise in developing a plan for the proposed new pool.
"My normal hourly rate for engineering is $115," Wellman explained. "Over a period of three years, I would be willing to donate 200 hours per year."
Also on Nov. 18, Darlene Johnson -- who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the White Salmon City Council in the November election -- came to the council meeting and pledged a large donation on behalf of the pool.
"My husband and I would like to donate $5,000 to the city pool fund," Johnson told the council members.
In addition to these recent pledges, there have been a number of donations of $1,000 or less, and the city of Bingen doubled its annual contribution to the pool -- going from $3,000 to $6,000 -- to help ensure White Salmon can keep the pool in operation.
Landgren, a strong backer of the pool, was gratified at the show of support.
"It is wonderful to see," Landgren said. "This has been a very rewarding committee. A lot of wonderful people have stepped forward. The pool has always been something to come together for."
Mayor David Poucher said he was impressed with the generosity of the donations to the pool fund.
"I think that is awesome, the way people have stepped up," Poucher said. "We already have pledges for $28,000."
The $28,000 figure was considered the minium amount necessary for the city to cover maintenance and operations of the swimming pool in 2010.
Although the minimum goal has been met, pool supporters promised that the fundraising effort will continue.
"That doesn't mean we stop collecting donations. All donations will be gratefully received and acknowledged, as there has been mention from other organizations and individuals that they intend to donate as well," explained Ruth Winner, secretary for the pool committee.
"The hope is, the more that comes in, it will go to fund the pool for 2011," Landgren added. "Can you imagine White Salmon without a pool open? It has been open for 90 years."
Landgren pointed out that the "pool fund" at Riverview Community Bank in White Salmon remains open.
"Fundraising will continue, and funds can still be deposited," Landgren said.