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Vashon Park District plans to open pool in late May

If all goes according to plan, the Vashon Pool will open two weeks earlier this season, have longer open swim sessions and be locally controlled.

Under the management of Vashon Park District, rather than King County, the 30-year-old pool

on S.W. 204th will feature a schedule and set of fees that include more lap swims, longer public swims and cheaper season passes.

The pool will open Saturday, May 29, two days before Memorial Day, and a free-swim grand opening will take place Saturday, June 5. Traditionally, the pool opened mid-June. The park district is opening earlier and making other changes to the pool’s setup in an effort to draw Islanders to the pool and, ultimately, to help the pool become a financially sustainable operation for the park district, said Wendy Braicks, Vashon Park District’s executive director.

“If the lessons fill up and we get a lot of people buying memberships, it’s going to be great,” she said. “If the community doesn’t use it, it’s going to be a struggle. … We’d love to break even, and wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a bit ahead?”

The park district plans to lease the pool from the Vashon Island School District, which owns the property. The pool had previously been operated by King County. The Vashon school board will vote at its meeting tomorrow to permit the park district to operate the pool this summer.

Because of county budget cuts, Vashon’s pool was slated to close earlier this year, but the park district stepped in and offered to take on operations of the pool. Once management is transferred to the park district, the county will give the district $75,000 to get the endeavor going.

“That’s going to be money we can fall back on if we need to,” Braicks said. “It’s going to be a cushion for us if we go into the hole the first few years.”

While park district officials have a clear plan for the pool moving forward, there’s no reason staff can’t change things if something doesn’t work out, said LuAnn Branch, a park commissioner who served on a park district pool committee. For example, officials plan to keep the pool open 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. five days a week, with slightly shorter hours on the weekends. But should that not work out, staff have the freedom to change the schedule to suit Islanders’ needs, she said.

Having the pool locally controlled is a big asset to the community, she said.

“I think we have an exciting opportunity here to make what was the King County pool Vashon’s own — we can customize it,” Branch said. “I don’t know that King County was as in tune with the needs of Vashon and could even accommodate our needs and interests. Now we’ll be able to.”

Those who have been regular users of the Vashon Pool in the past said the changes Vashon Park District is making will benefit the community.

“I think this is going to renew interest in the pool,” said Gary Gray, a father of two swimmers and a member of the pool committee. “It’s going to be a big improvement.”

He said he and his children plan to take advantage of the pool’s lengthy open swims — from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days. Islanders can swim for as much of the open swim session as they want for $5; under King County’s management, open swims were one to two hours long and cost $3.25 per hour.

“My daughter loves to play in the water, and she’s often disappointed when it’s time to go,” Gray said. “There was such a short time to be there. I think this will provide more opportunities for her to get in a lot of swimming.”

Besides open swim, programming at the pool this summer will include lap swim in the mornings, afternoons and at night; swim lessons; swim team practices; and family swims from 6 to 7 p.m. on weekdays — scheduled so that commuter parents can take a dip with their kids at the end of their workday.

“We’ve got a schedule that’s going to reflect how the community wants to use their pool,” said Travis Shaw, president of the Vashon Aquatic Club and a member of the park district’s pool committee. “The biggest difference, that big block of open swim time, is going to allow people to come be with their kids or drop off their kids for several hours at a time. They can spend a whole afternoon there at a pretty reasonable price.”

Someday, park officials would like to offer concessions at the pool, so families don’t have to plan ahead by packing a meal or leave when they get hungry. They’re not sure when concessions could be offered, but hope to begin discussions with Island businesses about the possibility of food at the pool, Branch said.

Still, Islanders should realize that this first year is a “test run” for the park district managing the public pool, Branch said.

“We might miss the mark on some things, I don’t know,” she said. “We’re trying to keep it pretty basic the first year.”

Park officials and members of the pool committee are thrilled to see the object of so much effort nearing its grand opening.

“There’s been a lot of time devoted to it,” Braicks said. “We’re anxious to see it take off.”

The Vashon Pool will open Saturday, May 29, with a grand opening on Saturday, June 5. Season-long memberships are $125 to $175. Open, lap and family swims cost $5 per session. Swim lessons will also be offered. Contact Vashon Park District at 463-9602 with questions or see vashonparkdistrict.org.

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