Photo courtesy of Lori Rodio
Treading water provides a workout to participants in a morning water aerobics class at the Wagner Memorial Pool.

By Ann McCreary

One donation at a time, from as little as $10 to a whopping $50,000, Friends of the Pool has raised all the money needed to pay for last year’s repairs to the Wagner Memorial Pool in Twisp.

Friends of the Pool recently received a final donation toward the $189,000 spent last year to repair leaks in the 51-year-old pool.

“We just asked nicely, and people came through,” said Patty Yates, president of Friends of the Pool, a local nonprofit organization devoted to sustaining the public swimming pool. “We got a check for the final amount, $1,548, three weeks ago,” Yates said.

Twisp officials have been grappling with the pool leakage problem for years, and determined that the pool needed to be resurfaced to repair cracks in the plaster lining that were the suspected culprits for the water loss.

The lining of the pool had deteriorated so badly that officials were reluctant to fill the pool until repairs were made. But lack of adequate money in the town budget jeopardized opening the pool at all last summer.

As they have in the past, Friends of the Pool stepped up and offered to raise the money needed for repairs. The organization got its started about 13 years ago when the Twisp Council threatened to keep the pool closed in order to balance the town’s budget, Yates said.

“We said how much money do you need to open the pool?” Yates said. “We thought we’d be done really quickly. Whatever they needed, we just went out and got it. There’s not a municipal pool in this country that pays for itself. They all need help, so we’re the helpers.”

How are the pool’s helpers so successful at raising money?

“We write letters. We pigeonhole people. We make lists of people we’d like to ask. We just keep asking. We are beggars,” Yates said. “We’re good. But you know who’s really good? This whole valley.”

Yates and several other members of Friends of the Pool are fans of the morning water aerobics classes. But she said the real motivation is helping children learn to swim.

“People understand how important it is to have our children learn to swim. We have rivers and lakes everywhere. That is my main message to people,” she said. “Of course, it’s important the aerobics ladies get their chance too.”

Donations for last year’s pool repairs came from many sources, including the Winthrop Kiwanis. Many donors, including a $50,000 contributor, requested to remain anonymous, Yates said. Money came in from as near as Lost River and Pateros to as far as Seattle, North Carolina and Arizona. Many of the more distant donations came from people who have lived in the valley, or have family here, she said.

As part of their fundraising efforts, Friends of the Pool several years ago initiated a project that sells colorful painted fish with donor’s names on the concrete wall at the pool entrance. Yates, an artist, has been the primary fish painter.

Many businesses have purchased the fish as advertisements, and pay Friends of the Pool each year. Other fish are purchased by family members and friends in honor of someone. “We have family fish, grandparent fish, grandchildren fish,” Yates said.

Twisp has faced a perennial issue in maintaining the pool, which serves not only Twisp residents but the entire valley. A foundation created by Ernst and Kathrine Wagner, after whom the pool is named, provides about $16,000-$17,000 a year for pool operations and scholarships for swim lessons.

The resurfacing work that was completed last year appears to have successfully stopped leaks from the structure of the pool, said Andrew Denham, Twisp public works director. However, there still seems to be some leaking in the pool’s pressurized circulation system.

That leaking was more noticeable at the beginning of the summer, and has decreased as the season has gone on. The overall water loss “is significantly less than last year,” said Denham, who said the source of the leak will be investigated.

Friends of the Pool recently paid for a new cover for the kiddie pool, and to upgrade the reel that winds up the cover on the main pool. Those funds were raised during last fall’s Give Methow campaign, conducted by the Methow Valley Fund.

While committed to keeping the outdoor pool open every summer, Yates said Friends of the Pool has a grander vision – a year-round, indoor pool. “What we really need is a big fat endowment,” she said. “We just have to gear up for someone to give us $1.5 million.”

For information about Friends of the Pool, call 997-2910. Donations can be made to Friends of the Pool, P.O. Box 438, Twisp, WA 98856.