Levy decision to cover pool stirs controversy

By Garrett Mueller, Co-Online Editor

 

For over thirty years, Islanders have wanted year-round pool access. Unfortunately, the Vashon Park District pool next to the high school is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The alternative option for swimming is the Vashon Athletic Club, which features smaller swimming lanes and a higher rental cost.

 

Unlimited access to the Park District pool would ultimately be allowed by a new enclosure. However, attaining an enclosure was not as easy as it sounds. In order to create an effective, stable environment for the pool and its occupants, a specialized cover would be required.

 

Due to the success of the recent levy, this pool cover is expected to be built by mid-October.

 

The [Athletic Club pool] is an old pool with old equipment that cannot keep it heated at a reasonable cost … without a cover,” Randy Turner, coach of the local Seals swim team, said. “Having a year-round, regulation-sized facility will benefit the community, [the] lap swimmers and the Seals.”

 

The Athletic Club declined to comment.

 

But how will using the Park District pool benefit the Seals anymore than the Athletic Club pool?

 

“Competitive swimming occurs in a 25-yard pool and requires diving off of the starting blocks; the outdoor pool at the high school is the only pool on the island that offers these two necessities,” Turner said.

 

A pool cover would also make the Park District pool more accessible during the year, especially during poor weather conditions.

 

However, not everyone thinks the construction of a new pool cover is a good idea both for financial and communal reasons.

 

“[Some people] said covering the pool will help it become more of a community asset than it is now,” wrote Jim Dorsey in a letter to the Beachcomber on March 14. “Perhaps, but in reality the Vashon Athletic Club’s covered pool is already doing just that. Adding another covered pool would theoretically add to it, but at what cost? [They] make assertions that the school district would see this as an asset but provides no support. In reality, the primary beneficiary is the Seals swim team.”

 

Being able to train in a regulation-pool will assist in our athletes finishing at the top of the results pages,” Turner said.

 

But missing from the picture is the financial cost. Dorsey estimated a net cost of $131,000 — and his numbers were not far off those of the Seals’ $140,000.

 

The Vashon Park District has agreed to operate the pool during the school year, which has a projected net cost of $55,000,” Karin Choo, Seals team president, said. “This will not be funded with any new levy money but will be managed within their current budget. The Vashon Seals Swim Team is working in the community to raise over $85,000 to cover the capital costs of the project, which include the dome itself and costs associated with its installation and use.”

 

This project will not be a cheap one to undertake. Dorsey expressed concerns that the money that would flow into the construction and maintenance of the pool cover would dry out funds and support of other levies and projects — including a project to be undertaken by Vashon Fire and Rescue. But the Seals swim team is determined to raise most of the money on their own.

 

“When we build a cover over the pool, more children will sign up to swim on the team, and adults who want to swim laps but don’t have the time or money to do so can,” Seals swimmer Sayde Garrett said.

 

Although the Seals swim team is the primary beneficiary, they’re not the only one. In addition to community members seeking a better swimming environment, the Stingrays swim team would benefit as well. Both the Seals and the Stingrays are sharing the Athletic Club pool, which often generates conflict between the teams. With the Seals moving to the Park District pool located in front of the school, the Stingrays would not have to practice in a shared space any longer.

 

“It’s a big win for the island as a whole,” Turner said.

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