St. Edward’s pool may close Feb. 24

Unless some progress was made during a Feb. 9 meeting, the Carole Ann Wald Memorial Pool in St. Edward State Park may not make it to the projected closing date of March 31.

Unless some progress was made during a Feb. 9 meeting, the Carole Ann Wald Memorial Pool in St. Edward State Park may not make it to the projected closing date of March 31.

Don Hoch, a regional director for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, confirmed last week what seemed to be rapidly spreading news among supporters of the pool, namely that the facility may shut down Feb. 24.

The state contracts with Seattle’s Northwest Center to run the pool in Kenmore.

Northwest is a nonprofit organization working with developmentally challenged individuals and uses the pool primarily for exercise programs.

“Whether or not the pool is closing, I don’t know,” said Northwest Vice-President Mike Quinn. “But our contract with the state is ending on that date (Feb. 24).”

Both Hoch and Quinn confirmed they planned to meet face-to-face regarding the operation of the pool, but the details or results of that meeting were not readily available at the Reporter’s deadline.

“Unless they change their position, I’m not sure what we can do,” Quinn said prior to meeting with Hoch.

In an e-mail sent to pool supporters, Quinn said Northwest’s costs for running the pool could hit $100,000 a year or higher because the state’s plan shifts all capital expenses for the facility to the operator or tenant.

Hoch said he initially met with Northwest officials late last year, extending their contract to run the pool through the end of March. That contract contained provisions spelling out that the state would not be providing some cash subsidies it had in the past. Still, Hoch said he thought the pool was safe through the end of March, which hopefully would have given officials time to figure out a way to keep it open.

“We thought everything was OK,” Hoch said.

On Jan. 26, Northwest sent notice to the state that it planned to exercise an opt-out clause in the pool operating agreement, terminating on Feb. 24 its contract to run the pool.

Hoch said while he would love to keep the pool operational, he added, that like most governmental agencies, the park system is under heavy financial constraints, charged with slicing $10 million out of its annual budget. As a result, Hoch and other state park officials have said they were forced to identify what they believe are the system’s priorities, its core responsibilities. Hoch added the Wald facility is only one of two pools operated by the state in all of Washington.

With all that in mind, Hoch contends justifying dollars for the pool proved difficult with the park service facing employee layoffs and possible park closures. He noted his own office is being shuttered and consolidated with another district park office.

For his part, park supporter and Kenmore resident Chris Tracy isn’t buying that the pool shouldn’t be a priority for the state. He said that for about seven months out of the year, the majority of visitors to St. Edward State Park are headed for the Wald pool.

“My concern at this point is that if it closes Feb. 24, it will never reopen,” Tracy said.

Tracy and other community park supporters are making extensive use of the Internet in trying to keep the pool open, even setting up at least one blog. According to Tracy and others, pool supporters planned to be out in force at the Feb. 9 Kenmore City Council meeting. That meeting also took place after the Reporter’s deadline.

Northwest Center is the current operator of the pool, but its clientele hardly are the only users of the facility. Besides regularly being open to the public, the pool is home to swimming lessons and summer camps, along with exercise classes for seniors, among other programs.

Additionally, the pool serves as the practice site for Inglemoor High swim teams, as well as serving the same purpose for a Seattle-based synchronized swimming group.