There has already been a lot of controversy about the city of Lake Oswego's purchase of the Safeco site. We will have two ballot measures related to that subject to vote on this November. One of the prime areas of controversy is the city's intent to consider a community center, including a city swimming pool, as part of any redevelopment of the site. Some in the community have suggested that those who want to swim should just join 'Club Sport' or some other private swim facility.
That logic might be appropriate for an individual swimmer who has adequate financial resources and plans to swim on a regular basis. It doesn't apply for those citizens in Lake Oswego who don't have that kind of disposable income, or who don't swim on a regular basis. It certainly doesn't apply to the swim teams and clubs that exist in our community.
Currently the aging Lake Oswego School District pool on Country Club road hosts two full-time swim clubs, a water polo club, two high school swim teams, two high school water polo teams, and various swim and exercise classes sponsored by the Lake Oswego Community School. With the indefinite closure of the Mountain Park pool, it is the only public swimming pool for a community of 35,000 people.
What do other communities in Oregon do for swimmers? I decided to do some research. My interest was piqued on a recent trip to the Southern Oregon Coast when, on Highway 101, I saw directions to the North Bend Municipal Swimming Pool. When I got home I found that North Bend has a population of less than 10,000 and yet has an indoor swimming pool. Neighboring Coos Bay (population 16,000) also has its own municipal pool. The following Oregon cities, all with populations less than Lake Oswego, believe that public swimming is important enough to have a municipal or school district pool: Newberg, McMinnville, Woodburn, Canby, Molalla, Sandy, Silverton, Hood River, The Dalles, Lebanon, Sweet Home, Dallas, Newport, Astoria, and Cottage Grove. Albany, a city of 46,000, has two pools, one of which is an Olympic-size (50 meter) facility.
Within the Portland Metropolitan Area, West Linn and Wilsonville have no public swimming pools, but Oregon City has one. Both Tigard and Tualatin have school district pools. In Western Washington County, around Beaverton, the Tualatin Hills Recreation District has 8 indoor pools serving about 210,000 residents, including an Olympic-size pool. Hillsboro has a city pool, as does Forest Grove. The North Clackamas Recreation District has a large swimming pool complex. Portland, with a population of about 500,000 has 6 indoor pools, 8 outdoor pools, and 3 additional school district pools on the east side of the city. Gresham and Troutdale have access to the Mt. Hood Community College Aquatic Center, a world-class swimming facility, as well as a school pool at Barlow High.
What do all of these communities have in common? First, they value the benefits of a good public swimming pool for both individuals and clubs/teams. Second, none of them have the financial resources per capita of Lake Oswego's residents. Yet they all found a way to build and maintain public swimming pools, many of them much nicer and more numerous (per capita) than can be found in Lake Oswego.
Please consider the needs of Lake Oswego's swimming programs, and the fact that most of our fellow Oregonians find public swimming to be an important part of their lives, when voting on the two measures on the ballot this November.
Gordon Howard is a resident of Lake Oswego.