There has been a lot of excitement, confusion and anger since Friends of the Pool (FOP) announced it would put an initiative on the ballot to establish a Metropolitan Park District (MPD). My confusion prompted me to contact FOP and do some research.
FOP has been planning to replace the aging Wagner Pool since 2019. In 2021 a feasibility study was conducted. In March 2022, FOP conducted a Zoom meeting open to the public to offer three different pool alternatives. The least expensive alternative was an outdoor competitive pool with attached recreational pool area (that could be covered in the future) at a cost of about $6.8 million to $11.8 million, with annual operating costs of $75,000 to $125,000. The most expensive alternative offered two indoor pools (one heated) and hot tub area at a cost of $17.9 million to $24.3 million, with annual operating costs of $650,000 to $725,000. The 40 people that attended the zoom meeting overwhelmingly chose the most expensive alternative. FOP agreed, and decided to establish a MPD to run and fund the pools.
While I admire FOP for its willingness to take on such a project, I don’t agree on their process or decisions. A small sample size of enthusiastic supporters may not reflect what pool option a majority of people would choose. In my opinion, a scoping letter should have been mailed to everyone in the district to explain options and gather input. “A pool for everyone,” right?
FOP chose to establish an MPD, which is bestowed enormous powers and provides little taxpayer accountability. The vast majority of recreation projects in Washington state are funded by Park and Recreation Districts, which give taxpayers accountability by putting the levy on the ballot every six years. I trust the people in this valley enough to know they wouldn’t abandon a pool they just paid for.
If the proposition to establish a MPD fails, I hope FOP will allow all people to vote for the pool alternative of their choice (if any), run by a more taxpayer-friendly recreation district. I would like to be able to give my support to FOP in the future.
Kids need the pool
I have lived in the Methow Valley for 11 years and my son has grown up in this alley. As a child in Nayarit, Mexico, our town did not have a pool and I never learned how to swim. My memory of swimming is, at 9 years old my mom took me to cool off by going to the river an hour from our house. While she was talking with friends, I fell into the water. I remember seeing the sun at the surface of the water above me as I fought for my life. I remember how my shoulders burned from the effort of trying to reach the surface of the water.
I never could teach my son to swim, because I still don’t know how to swim. But I did take him to the pool in Twisp. Watching him swim with the Paz brothers at the Twisp pool made my heart swell with pride. He had something I didn’t. He felt safe around water and could even have fun.
As a single mom, who works in housecleaning for the valley, I love the pool, not only so my son learned to swim, but also a place for him to be during the summer while I have to work. He can be with friends, and be a part of our community. Having the pool in Twisp is important because I can’t drive him to lakes and outdoor activities in the summer, I am working to keep up with our busy tourism. With the pool within walking distance and in the center of town, he can go there by himself to meet his friends. Where is a safe, fun place for all the kids to go when there is no school and parents need to work? Where can they be if we don’t have a pool? All other pools here are private and not accessible to everyone. The new pool is something I will gladly pay taxes for, so all kids in the valley have a safe place to learn to swim and play while parents have to work.
How does a photo of Mission “restoration” project look to you? I hope many concerned citizens will attend the Aug. 17 meeting (7 p.m., Methow Valley Community Center) and express their support for all the lives (human, as well as fish and wildlife) that will be negatively affected by the ongoing and planned actions.
The Mission logging project should be stopped along with the other “forest improvement” projects labeled Twisp, Lookout and Midnight. Lookout and Midnight seem appropriately named; Mission was named to avoid public recognition that the important Libby Creek watershed would be further degraded on a planned 15-year cycle for at least 30 years.
Are all state and federal laws, as well as U.S. Forest Service Forest Plan restrictions being adhered to? For example, there are restrictions in some areas against some seasonal activities (i.e., winter, such as livestock grazing, road building and use, commercial logging and scheduled burning). Those planned actions will degrade watershed values and the lives of threatened residents (human, deer, fish and native plants).
Libby Creek Watershed Association
Kudos to chamber
At 10 p.m. Friday (Aug. 4), the Washington State Department of Transportation shut down Highway 20 between Newhalem and Rainy Pass. As a business owner in Winthrop, I am naturally vitally interested in news of highway shutdowns during the summer season!
I was alerted to this news by Winthrop Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ted Lafferty via email, several hours before the closure was to take effect. As troubling as the news was, I was so relieved to get word of it so early. Such is the value of effective chambers of commerce!
The Methow Valley is lucky to have very solid and proactive chambers in both Winthrop and Twisp. Kudos to Ted and Twisp Marketing Director Juliet Kennedy, and to Twisp Chamber President Sandy Moody and Winthrop Chamber President Joshua Buehler, for their leadership.
I hate to sound like a P.R. hack, but gosh! Local business owners would do well to join and support these chambers. Running a business in the Methow is a definite “Make Hay While the Sun Shines” proposition, and the chambers help us do that when the sun is shining, so to speak. And they also alert us to times when the sun is clouding over, and help us weather events we can’ t control — like pass closures, landslides and wildfire.
So, yeah, I’m a fan. And I can’t say thanks enough.
The Iron Horse (Winthrop) and Methow Press (Twisp)
Where’s the enforcement?
We live in Twisp, just north of the Twisp River bridge on Highway 20. For months we’ve seen increased speeding in the 35 mph zone in front of our home — speeds of 45, 55, 65 and more.
In our short trips into town, we’ve observed the following behaviors:
• An elderly couple waiting for a safe moment to turn up Twisp River road being crowded by a man who then made an obscene gesture as he passed them.
• A person who seemed to be the same individual making the same obscene gesture to me while passing me in town as I traveled the speed limit.
• A semi driver last week, flying by our house heading into town with a large piece of heavy equipment on his trailer while speaking on his cell phone.
• A car simply flying around me as I drove by Aero Methow Rescue Service at the posted 35 mph.
• People attempting to enter the highway from Hank’s or from a side street narrowly avoiding being hit as a vehicle approaches at speeds far exceeding the speed limit.
• As people slow down to enter city limits the traffic behind them failing to slow appropriately, flying up close behind, then tailgating at an unsafe distance.
• Traffic failing to yield to people in crosswalks.
These incidents are in no way isolated and happen on a daily basis.
Isn’t it about time our Town Council and Mayor take action on behalf of Twisp residents? This has gone on for too long, and with no law enforcement is only getting worse. We deserve better.
A community asset
There are two things in Steve Oulman’s letter to the editor last week that we agree on: Vote in November, and learn about the details of the Methow Aquatics District.
Mr. Oulman implies that buildings that support the public good are extravagant. He questions the need for an indoor pool and asks “is this a priority for our community?” There is a clear answer to this question.
Public swimming pools are not an extravagant luxury, they are a public necessity.
Like schools and libraries, public pools are a critical part of a social infrastructure that build community and protect public health. Public pools are democratic because they exist for everyone: children, adults, seniors, athletes, people with disabilities, wealthy people and low-income people. Public pools support play, health, well-being, community, and, most importantly, safety. They are a refuge from heat and smoke. Public pools are preventative health care in action.
Over years of public input, Friends of the Pool consistently heard that the community wanted year-round swimming. The concept has not spun out of control, as Mr. Oulman suggests, but was developed with careful consideration and expert advice.
This desire for year-round swimming emerges from the experience of lost summers to smoke and a climate that prevents swimming the remaining nine months of the year. An enclosed space to keep out the cold and smoke will benefit more people in our community, more of the time.
While we advocate for a year-round option, voting yes won’t guarantee it. Mr Oulman implies that we are asking the public to foot the bill of building the pool. Not so! Voting yes on the aquatics district will create the public entity necessary to carry this important work forward. The district will be beholden to the taxpayers, and will conduct business with transparency and accountability. The district will hold public hearings, conduct more studies, and gather more information to make final decisions regarding what the future Methow Aquatics Center will be.
If you believe in a vibrant valley that invests in their own well-being, then vote yes to approve the Methow Aquatics District and let’s grow in health together.
Jessica Kuzma, Sarah Schrock, Ken Malloch, Alisa Malloch, Miles Milken, Kellie Zahn, Ray Johnston, Justin Porter
Treasuring our dark skies
Kudos to the Methow Conservancy’s First Tuesday program with Dr. Shane Larson presenting data on the benefits of keeping the skies over the Methow Valley dark. We benefit not only from easily seeing the Milky Way and other celestial wonders, but it’s a money-saving feature with electricity not wasted on ambient lighting which escapes lighting fixtures. Dr. Larson stated that $7 billion a year is wasted in electrical lighting in the U.S. which escapes into space! He mentioned the Dark Sky Coalition has worked with the Winthrop Town Council to design and install lighting fixtures which focus light downward rather than up or outward helping to keep the wonders of the night skies in Winthrop visible.
I reflected on this as I drove home and took note of the ambient light illuminating the Mazama area. I noticed the Mazama Store has very little lighting which escapes into the night sky. Light fixtures are pointed down rather than out or up. Thank you Missy and Rick for preserving the dark skies in Mazama and being a model for other businesses to follow. I treasure seeing the Milky Way on a clear night and I’m sure our visitors enjoy it as well.
Support the district
In his July 19 Letter to the Editor, Mr. Hopkins writes: “Tonasket funded an outdoor pool at a cost of about 13 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Hopkins missed an important detail: Tonasket has this rate because their pool is open from June to August (three calendar months, that is, one-fourth of the year)
Prorated to 12 months, Tonasket’s levy rate would be somewhere around 52 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
A feasibility study, funded by the Friends of the Pool, estimates that the levy rate for a year-round facility in the Methow Valley would be about 40-45 cents per $1,000 with a maximum rate of 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
We can continue to squabble over the minutia or see it as the best opportunity for generations of swimmers since the Wagners established the Wagner Pool in 1966. This is it! Support the Methow Aquatics District!