The South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation still has a community pool in its sights, though it will likely be years until it dives headfirst into its plans.
The foundation is inching closer and closer to raising enough money for a feasibility study that will determine whether or not South Whidbey could accommodate a multi-purpose, year-round aquatics complex. If that answer is “yes,” then a bond measure with the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District could potentially come in four years, according to board members Andrea Newton and Shawn Fowler.
“The feasibility study is expensive, but we’ve got to have that data to see if the South End can actually support that,” Fowler said.
Newton, the board’s president, estimated that the study could cost between $12,000 and $50,000, though the foundation hopes to spend less than $20,000. Fundraisers such as the annual Turducken Trot 5k race have brought in about $10,000, but they’ll need a few more years — as well as a major fundraiser specifically meant for the feasibility study — to get them the rest of the way.
The last time there was a push for a community pool was 2008, but the recession dealt a severe blow to the plans. Newton said the foundation is still assessing the likelihood of building a pool, but it won’t ask the public to invest money in the pool if it’s not doable.
“We’re not going to do that if we don’t feel it’s possible to have a sustainable pool on South Whidbey,” Newton said.
She firmly believes it will be worth it if the feasibility study comes back positive.
“Fitness is so important to a lot of people on South Whidbey,” Newton said. “We have so many other beautiful places to do things, but we’re also on an island, so water safety becomes really important and there are very few opportunities for kids and families to not only get swimming lessons, but be able to practice water safety in a safe environment with professional lifeguards and the ability to explore the water in a way that is safe and comfortable.”
Newton added that allowing people on South Whidbey to have access to a public pool would “be a powerful resource” and that it has the power to build community. Part of the foundation’s mission is reminding the community of its importance and preparing the public for the bond measure down the road.
“Because they offer exercise and fun for anybody, any age,” Newton said.
The only two pools on South Whidbey are at Island Athletic and the Useless Bay Golf and Country Club, but both require paid memberships to access. Swimming lessons offered at the Camp Casey Conference Center pool during the summertime also have the tendency to fill up quickly, Newton said, leaving South End people with few options.
Plans are still murky for what the aquatic center will look like, but Newton and Fowler said they want to make sure it accommodate youths.
“We’d like kids to be the focus,” Newton said.
Given the Pacific Northwest’s climate though, it will be necessary for it to be covered, Fowler said.
About 40 people helped contribute to the long-term goal at the third annual Turducken Trot 5k on Nov. 18 at South Whidbey Community Park. The family friendly and sometimes goofy run/walk is the foundation’s primary fundraiser and typically receives about $2,000 per year from entry costs, though only part of the money goes toward the pool fund.
South Whidbey High School junior Callahan Yale, who qualified for the class 1A state championships for the second consecutive year earlier this month, won the race in 17 minutes and 48 seconds.
“My mom was talking about how it’s good to have a pool in the community because it teaches kids how to swim,” Yale said. “It’s a good skill to learn.”
“I just like doing this community run, helping out, he added.
Clinton resident Kurt Warwick was hot on his heels. He too thinks the pool has merit.
“It’d be a great idea to have a pool,” Warwick said. “There’s so much need for it really. Because we have so much talent with running and whatever else, it’s such a nice cross-train tool to go in the pool and swim instead of run.”
“It’d be nice to have a community pool to go do laps or whatever,” he added.
Jamie Rodden was the first female, finishing the race in 21 minutes and 47 seconds. Two additional prizes were given to the first high school freshman boy (Thomas Simms, 19:55) and freshman girl (Natalie Rodriquez, 24:59).
The event also included raffle prizes: frozen turkey, frozen chicken, pies, a dog chew toy, a pizza blanket and painted rocks from Whidbey Island Rocks.