Pool swims closer to reality


It was exactly three years ago this week that the Estherville Pool Committee presented the results of the community survey to the city council.

At that time 86 percent of respondents favored the construction of a new municipal pool. Sixty-eight percent of those said they would still support the project even if their preferred location was not accepted.

Of the 280 comments, many of those urged the city to keep the admission price affordable for lower income families and those with children who swim each day.

One commenter said, “All these years our parents and grandparents supported an outdoor pool fo rus and our children. I feel we should do the same.”

Friday night, Enhance Iowa, a board that is part of Iowa Economic Development, released its decisions on 12 projects around the state. One of those was Estherville's pool, and Estherville was awarded the $250,000 the city requested for the $5.1 million project.

The opening of the Regional Wellness Center's splashpad for a brief period at this time last year and for the summer this year provided a way to cool off for another summer until the pool can be opened. A number of delays means the pool, once anticipated for the summer of 2021 will instead open for the summer of 2022.

Former Parks & Rec board member Tina Jensen said in November, 2018, “I think we need to be all together on this. The pool project will affect us for 100 years.”

City administrator Penny Clayton said at that time, “The pool will be a fantastic recreational opportunity for our citizens and for those who visit us and use our recreational facilities.”

In May, 2019, the council approved a city referendum for the new pool, and set a date of Aug. 6, 2019. The history of a new municipal pool begins years ago. A pool committee worked for two years developing the core of the pool's design before dissolving. Despite a few setbacks, city residents passed the pool bond with 69 percent. Sixty percent was required for the bond referendum of $4.1 million to pass. The bond referendum does not raise city taxes but rather rolls over an existing bond that was set to expire.

Social media dissenters were no match for the will of the people, though only one-third of eligible voters in the city went to the polls.

Some longtime residents expressed their favor for refurbishing the existing pool, which was first built at the riverfront location in 1929 and refurbished by Moeller Construction in 1962.

Experts say a municipal aquatics program offers the unique benefits of providing a competitive sport, a recreational activity and a life-saving skill. Pools can serve all genders, age groups, and socioeconomic spectra. Beyond swim lessons and swim teams, a pool is a sign of a functioning, healthy community, according to Kathleen Wilson, who founded SwimCalm, a program designed for adults with a fear of water who wish to swim.

Other communities offer beginner swim lessons for teens and adults with an emphasis on water safety and self-help rescue skills, water aerobics, and other programs to improve health, refine skill sets or improve or regain mobility.

Pools are expensive to operate. The old municipal pool lost up to $60,000 per summer, and Clayton said keeping a lid on expenses to something less than that for the new pool would be ideal. For most communities, a municipal pool is a service provided, not a profit center.

Providing the benefits of social interaction, relaxation and stress relief with the opportunity to participate in aerobic but low-impact exercise, our newsroom feels the pool will benefit many in the community.

Enhance Iowa evidently felt the same way.

Now we must keep on swimming toward the goal of opening a pool two summers from now.


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