Who drained the pool?

A Medford Parks and Recreation employee is shown in June 2010 getting the Hawthorne Park pool ready for opening day.Bill Miller

It seems every decade or two in Medford, a few people would like to make a splash by taking a deep dive into a pool idea, while others prefer the economic safety of dry land.

The failure of last year's $14.5 million bond measure to replace the Hawthorne and Jackson pools, along with the concept of a water park that was scrubbed a few years earlier, are just the most recent examples.

If you go

This summer you can get a look at the Hawthorne Park Pool between East Jackson and East Main streets in Medford. The Jackson Park Pool is at 815 Summit Ave., between West McAndrews Road and West Jackson Street.

Also, check out the Bear Creek Dog Park near Interstate 5, Exit 27, at Barnett Road and Highland Drive.

Maybe here you'll be able to imagine an indoor swimming pool.

And don't forget the Hawthorne Park Pool, on East. Jackson, across from the Medford Center.

It all began just before World War II, when residents began talking about a swimming pool at what would become Hawthorne Park.

In June 1944, voters approved a $62,500 levy to build it, and six years later the first swimmers jumped into the cool, chlorinated water.

A decade later, in 1960, the Jackson Park pool opened, followed by the addition of a diving pool in 1963. That marked the end of voter interest in swimming pools.

In 1971, the Medford City Council asked voters to approve a $90,000 measure to build an indoor swimming pool.

That measure took a dive into the deep end and failed by a 3-to-1 margin. Supporters blamed the failure on two other park-related bond measures appearing on the same ballot.

A decade later, the council tried again, hiring a private consultant to investigate whether there was even a need for an indoor pool.

The consultant's 1981 feasibility report concluded that a demand existed.

"In addition to providing wintertime swimming activities," it said, "it will also offer adult fitness programs, special swimming for the elderly, handicap programs, competitive swimming, and swimming instruction for school-aged children."

But the early 1980s were just about the worst time to propose a major building project. Southern Oregon was suffering from the effects of a national recession, aggravated by a severe depression in the region's timber industry.

By late 1987, the overall economy was rebounding, and the City Council once again proposed an indoor swimming pool, this one to be financed by a $3.7 million bond measure.

The only controversy on the council was whether to hold a special election or wait for the May 1988 primary election. The decision was to wait.

This swimming pool would be built in Bear Creek Park near the corner of Barnett Road and Highland Avenue, just about where the dog park is situated today. Although no plans had been drawn up, the facility was expected to follow the design recommended in the 1981 feasibility report.

The main pool would be 82 by 156 feet and include a 13-foot-deep diving end. Nearby would be a much smaller training pool for children, ranging in depth from 1.5 feet to 2.5 feet.

The entire facility would be enclosed in a 23,328-square-foot concrete building.

Exactly 25 years ago, Medford voters went to the polls and once again turned down the project, this time by 307 votes.

Medford Mayor Jerry Lausmann said at the time that he was disappointed with the result.

"I can't speak for the council," he said, "but my personal preference would be that I'd like to see it on the ballot again. A year-round swimming pool is needed."

There it ended until last year.

And if past performance is a clue, Medford voters should expect another splash attempt around 2022, or perhaps as late as 2033.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.

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