Swimming season opens at Jackson Pool

Crowds flocked to Medford's only public pool on opening day, but the aging facility may soon be in need of replacement

Jackson pool opened Monday for its 54th season, and city officials think that with a little love, the pool will last a few more years.

"We're doing everything we can to keep it up and running," said Medford recreation supervisor Sue McKenna.

This spring, maintenance crews drained and cleaned the pool before applying a fresh coat of paint and resealing an expansion joint so the pool won't leak. They also fixed the water pump and boiler, replaced the bathhouse water heater, installed heaters in the locker rooms and office, and prepped the chlorination and filtration systems — all of which was pretty routine, McKenna said.

However, she said, some kids may be disappointed to know that the beloved blue slide had to go.

During an annual inspection, city staff discovered large amounts of rust hidden by several layers of paint on the slide's structural supports. So the slide was removed three weeks ago.

The slide was about 20 years old and in desperate need of repairs, McKenna said, adding that an estimate alone would have cost the city about $9,000.

A new slide would cost between $50,000 and $75,000 and may be considered during the city's next budget cycle, she added.

In the meantime, lifeguards set up "Big Bertha," a 30-foot inflatable slide, in the grassy area next to the pool for kids to play on.

During the first open swim Monday, there were as many kids lined up for the slide as there were swimming in the pool, McKenna said.

Last summer, there were nearly 22,000 visits to the pool for open swim alone, McKenna said.

"And that was kind of a slow year, due to all the smoke in the valley," she said.

Hawthorne pool, which opened on June 4, 1950, was closed in 2011 and removed in 2013 after city officials determined it was leaking 30,000 gallons a day.

City officials went to voters in November 2012 with a $14.5 million bond measure that would have replaced both public pools and covered Hawthorne pool. But the proposal was defeated 55 percent to 44 percent.

"It's one of those things where you ask people, 'Would like a new pool?' and they say, 'Yes, we want a new pool,' " said Brian Sjothun, director of Medford Parks and Recreation. "Then you ask them, 'Would you like to pay for it by increases to property taxes?' and they vote no."

Sjothun said the city may revisit the issue in a few years, but for now, will make do with what it has.

On Monday morning, kids waiting for swimming lessons didn't seem to mind the antiquated pool facility.

Three-year-old Aundrey Villa waited eagerly to begin his first lesson of the season and practice his "starfish floats" and "ice cream scoopers."

"We've come here every year since he was born," said his mother Ana Villa. "I used to come here all the time when I was younger. It used be the cool place to be."

When his name was called, Aundrey went forward to meet his swim instructor and be carried to the "tot dock" where three other young kids waited, shivering in the 80-degree water.

One mom, Rachel Simonsen, said she sent her son and daughter to the Ashland YMCA last year, but decided to enroll them in swimming lessons at Jackson pool this year because it was more convenient and a good value.

"I just wish there was a better facility," she said. "And I wish there was an indoor facility. It would be nice to have one indoor and one outdoor facility."

Monday was a mild 65 degrees, and Simonsen's 4-year-old son Bodie ducked his shoulders under the water to stay warm.

"It's Oregon," she said. "You just never know what the weather's going to be."

However, another mom, Codi Spodnik, said she likes that the lessons are outdoors and that they are held every day for a five-day session as opposed to once a week. She registered her 7-year-old son Jack and 9-year-old daughter Ali for lessons in May and plans to sign up for one or two more sessions later this summer.

"Last year, I had to offer Jack $10 to jump off the diving board, and he thinks he's getting another $10 this year," she joked.

The city is currently offering 20 open swim sessions a week at Jackson Pool, in addition to lap swimming, water aerobics, private parties and swimming lessons.

McKenna said the city recoups only about 30 to 35 percent of its open swim costs.

"But we feel it's something worth subsidizing for the community," she said. "It's a great recreational opportunity for families and a place to come and hang out where it's fun and safe and to cool off."

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.



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