New pool dream in progress

<I>The Eagle/Dan Toner</I><BR>Grant County kids beat the summer heat in the Gleason Pool July 9. Grant County residents are currently brainstorming ideas for a new pool facility.

JOHN DAY - Local residents met July 3 at the Outpost Pizza Pub & Grill to pour ideas into the dream of building a new swimming pool.

"We're trying to determine what the community wants and can support, and go from there," said John Day resident Jim Spell.

The meeting was called after residents voiced concern that the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) has plans to buy the Gleason Pool facility, city park property, and five privately owned parcels, to expand and improve the Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum. Spell said he expects that change to come sometime in the next 10 years, so pool supporters need to start making plans.

"It's always been my vision anyway to have a new piece of property for a year-round indoor pool," said Seneca resident Tom Winters.

An OPRD plan for the Kam Wah Chung site says that the state would work with residents toward obtaining a new pool, and that it's not an option for the community to go without a pool.

The aging Gleason Pool's current condition is also of concern.

"It's at least 50 years old and it has certainly shown its age," Spell said during the meeting. "Everything in it has already been replaced, and now it will continue to nickel and dime you to death. At some point it could break down, and that could be it. How long do we sit around and do nothing?"

Topics discussed during the meeting were potential pool locations, cost and grants, and how to obtain ongoing, long-term financial support from the community.

"This is something the community needs," said Spell. "But the question is whether or not the community will support it long-term."

Some possible locations for a new pool that came up at the meeting were: Grant Union High School, the Grant County Fairgrounds on the Third Street Extension, the Seventh Street Complex, the former Blue Mountain Junior High School, the east end of the Oregon Pine Mill, and the old County Road Department Shop in Canyon City.

"It would be great if we could get a partnership with Grant Union High School," said Spell. "Swimming is the best way to condition for all sports activities, and it brings dollars into the community."

Spell also said that a year-round pool could spark the beginning of school-affiliated swim teams in Grant County, and use by physical education classes at Grant Union.

Sarah Russ, a physical therapist at Blue Mountain Hospital, believes the community would benefit from a therapeutic pool, which would have to be separate from a recreational pool.

"It would have to be a year-round pool with plenty of room to walk, suspended ramps, and some certain parameters," she said.

Russ added that water temperature would need to be maintained at about 80 degrees, and she estimates that 300 patients would use the facility a year.

"It would be very difficult to maintain," she said. "This would be no small commitment."

The cost for a new facility is not certain, but Spell said it could cost more than $2 million.

"Building it is the easiest part," he said. "The hard part is maintaining it on an ongoing basis."

Ideas were thrown onto the table during the meeting about how to financially maintain a new pool's operation. Some suggested that grants would be needed from the OPRD, along with private investments.

"Right now we're in the very beginning stages of planning this thing out," said Russ. "I hope to have a higher turnout at our next meeting so we can get input from more people."

A follow-up meeting to further discuss possible pool locations is scheduled for July 23 at 6 p.m. at the Outpost.

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