The proposed placement of the new community pool sparked up debate at the White Salmon Valley Pool Metropolitan Park District meeting on April 11.
During the public comment period, White Salmon resident Tao Berman voiced his concerns about locating the new community pool out by the middle/high school campus.
“My concern is, that as a community, I think we may still be attempting to build a pool and amenities that are more expensive than a town of our size can really afford. I have heard people say we need to build the pool to anticipate all the future growth. Even if our population base doubles in the next 20 years, which I believe it won’t, we will still be a very small community, and our pool will still be operating at a loss,” said Ber-man
He also made points as to why he, and reportedly others in the community, believe that the new pool should be built on the property by Hulan L. Whitson Elemen-tary school, where the current pool is located.
“There are several benefits to having the pool located by the elementary school. Families in town can walk to the pool. Also, the park is located half a block from the pool. If the pool is downtown, it is far easier for families to walk downtown to get ice cream and/-or dinner after swimming. My perspective is that this would also be of benefit to our local businesses, which are vitally important to all of us in the community,” said Ber-man.
“From an urban planning perspective, there is far more benefit to putting a community pool in the center of the community, as oppo-sed to hiding it out on the north end of town,” added Berman.
While the Pool District Com-missioners acknowledged that there are central benefits to the new pool being built in the location of the current pool, they are also aware of drawbacks to the location: specifically, when it comes to features of the pool, potential growth of the facility, and increased traffic.
“One of our biggest concerns with that location is that there is no room for growth. It will already be a very tight fit with the current two-pool design we have,” said Pool Board President Lloyd DeKay.
DeKay also mentioned hearing concerns from residents near the elementary school regarding the potential for increased traffic at the downtown location.
Berman agreed that there are some valid reasons why the pool being located by the elementary school is not perfect.
“However, my perspective is that it is still a better location than the alternatives that are being looked at,” noted Berman.
It is with these concerns in mind that the Pool District Board has been looking at alternative locations for the new pool. While nothing is set in stone, the locations that have shown the most potential are on the north and south sides of the Sharon E. Schalk Transportation Center on the middle/high school campus.
However, those locations present their own issues as well, primarily on the south side of the transportation center where there is a drainage swale.
The swale could present some potential problems with construction should the district choose that location.
The Pool District brought out unpaid, volunteer consultants to assess whether pool construction is still doable in these locations. Both agreed that the project is doable. The Pool District also wants to bring out the Klickitat County Planning Department to get its perspective.
The benefits these potential locations provide may outweigh any problems. Both locations at middle/high school campus allow for growth. Additionally, it provides a training/recruitment ground for lifeguards from the high school and the potential to contract with the school district’s maintenance crew.
The Pool District needs to decide on site location as soon as possible, ideally within the next few months so that the pool design can be refitted to that location, according to DeKay
“Once we have a location, we can have a graphic designer come out and work on solid designs that can be put out for publication which will help with the fundraising process,” said DeKay.
Other decisions that need to be made are regarding features of the new pool.
The Pool District has reviewed previous designs and feasibility studies to determine cost and usability of each proposed feature. The Pool Board has settled for a two-pool design which includes a 25-foot, six-lane competition pool and a second pool for physical therapy and/or swimming lessons.
The second pool became a source of debate as to useability. There is some concern that a therapy pool would not be used, especially if it could not be used year-round. The Pool Board is continuing to have discussions about whether a therapy pool is worth the cost if it would only be used 3 months out of the year.
“Swimming lessons is where the money will be at to keep the pool going, having a therapy pool that doubles as a pool for little kids swimming lessons could justify having the therapy pool,” said Husum resident Shelly Rawding.
The Pool District met with Skyline Hospital and Mid-Columbia Medical Center to discuss the need for a therapy pool. Both entities agreed there is a need for one, to which Berman and others argued that if that is of interest to those entities, they should contract with the Pool District to fund it.
Another point of contention regarding pool features was the installation of diving boards. The current designs do not include a diving board for the main pool. This is due to both the insurance and liability surrounding diving boards, as well as the requirements for them.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, diving boards can only be installed in pools over nine feet deep, the recommended minimum depth is 11.5 feet.
Further discussions on pool construction will be held at the next Pool District meeting.
The meeting concluded with a note that the fundraising campaign will kick off May 8.