Pool boosters wade into septic analysis

A proposed aquatic center for South Whidbey is closer to becoming a reality.

The South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation is looking to fund a feasibility study to evaluate the site where a septic system would be built to accommodate the pool and its backwash drainage.

The study would help determine the viability of the preferred site, which is on land owned by South Whidbey Parks and Recreation and located to the north of the South Whidbey Community Park entrance.

After the failure of a bond measure in 2008 to create a recreational center for the Sound End, a dedicated group of volunteers and passionate swimmers have banded together to create the South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation.

Around a year ago, the foundation’s focus changed to an aquatic center, rather than a recreational facility.

Although very early in the planning stages, Board President Marni Zimmerman said part of the planning includes the septic study. Its outcome would also help determine if the aquatic center would be a good fit for the community at this time.

The study would cost around $5,000 and would provide an engineering estimate to find out what sort of septic design should be built for the pool.

“If it’s too costly or too complex, we have other sites we could look at,” Zimmerman said.

This could involve partnering with the South Whidbey School District or WhidbeyHealth on their land. The latter partnership was considered a few years ago, and is still being considered, by South Whidbey Parks and Recreation, with the idea to involve a physical therapy component to the aquatic center.

Longtime Parks Board Commissioner Matt Simms suggested water aerobics and other activities could be beneficial and help relieve pressure for many community members.

“For a lot of people in our community, land-based, weight-bearing activity is not something they can do,” Simms said.

The aquatic center has been part of the parks and recreation comprehensive plan, a six-year document running until 2023.

Simms said he received a “huge positive response” from the community he surveyed. Out of 700 responses, people ranked the pool as the No. 1 project.

Although there is not yet a total cost estimate for the aquatic facility, Simms said it would be less than half the size of what was proposed back in 2008 and ideally less than half of that $15 million price tag.

He added that the parks district is following a sustainable model from a national aquatics organization that the community can afford and operate.

Zimmerman said the foundation would like to have the feasibility study done this year and potentially architectural plans if a site is chosen.

“We would be lucky to have it in two to three years,” she said of the aquatic facility.

At board meeting last week, parks and recreation officials declined to fund the foundation’s feasibility study, choosing instead to focus on finishing the department’s campground project.

But Zimmerman is hopeful South Whidbey Parks and Recreation may choose to fund other parts of the project as it progresses. So far it has funded a study of water availability in the park.

“We as a parks district are indebted to them for the work they are doing,” Simms said of the South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation. “It’s rare to find people willing to give so much of themselves in service to the community as a whole.”