The Bearacudas, Manta Rays and Bullfrogs swarmed to the Twisp Town Park Saturday to take on the Killer Whales in the Okanogan Swim League Championship. The tent city that springs up as temporary shelters for the weary swimmers and spectators is quite a sight to behold as hundreds of families and swimmers staked out their 10-by-10 foot piece of real estate on the lawns. At Wagner Memorial Pool, the championship events continued for nearly 10 hours of competition.
I am still pretty new to the swim team scene with two seasons now under my belt, and am learning the ropes of how these meets work. There’s a lot of small inner workings, tons of logistics and coordination, and parental commitments that make swim team a bit overwhelming at first.
Take the massive tent cities that get erected at meets, for instance. If you have never been to a meet, you aren’t aware of the festival-like infrastructure. A friend commented to me after the first all-day meet one Saturday, “I think there needs to be parent mentors to new parents to inform us that we should bring coolers and tents.”
The Killer Whales won the league championship again this year, but Omak, Okanogan and Brewster brought tough competition. The three visiting teams have some top-tier swimmers who dominated many events. But due to our sheer number of swimmers, the Killer Whales accumulate the most points to take home the championship nearly every year.
The pool will be closing on Aug. 17 this year. Strained operating expenses, staffing challenges and recurring smoky skies have resulted in shut-downs and low turn-out over past years.
Operating costs continue to rise — not just because the facility is old or leaking (leaks are down by 60%!). Wages, insurance, pool chemicals and scheduled repairs eat the brunt of the budget.
Revenues from pool fees and passes cover just under half the cost of operations and the Town of Twisp dedicates the remainder to the budget from three sources: the town general fund (that’s tax dollars from the town), the Wagner Fund (established in 1967 by the Wagner family when they built the pool), and Friends of Pool (that’s you — our local community donors) supplements the rest.
Friends of the Pool is conducting a public survey and wants you to participate. (Full disclosure: I serve as chairman of Friends of Pool. But you all knew that already.) Even if you don’t use the pool, please go online to www.foptwisp.org and click on Pool Survey. The survey is part of a greater study by Friends of the Pool made possible through a grant from the Methow Fund. The grant will help us conduct a needs assessment to understand the current pool’s physical status and determine the feasibility of options for a new facility to meet current and future needs.
It’s urgent that we begin planning now for the future for our community pool. The resurfacing in 2016 was only a band-aid fix. Through the survey, we are gauging community opinions on current pool programs, desires for new programs, public appetite for a recreation district, and desires for a future facility that could include a covered, year-round or extended-season facility. We want to hear from the whole valley so we can be strategic in our planning. Not a fan of surveys? Visit us at our next board meeting, on Aug. 5 at 10:30 a.m., at Twisp Town Hall and give your input.
At the swim meet, I learned that Brewster is building a removable dome over its pool in a couple of years. They bundled the funding into a matching grant through their school district bond to cover the cost. The bond also includes a walking track at the high school that the community will be able to access during school hours. It took them nine years to craft the approach and gain buy-in, tying it to whole community health, not just swimmers. It’s this type of creative strategy we are hoping to engineer and design a facility that will serve our current and future needs for active lifestyles. So please fill out the survey!