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Why Gym?

Island Life

The first bit of activism that I participated in while growing up was a campaign to get a swim team at my local high school. As it was, age group league swimming at the time mostly stopped at age 14, making way for the big leap to high school competition and championships. Our school, although in a well-off, middle class area, did not have a pool. The story was that at one time, the Readers Digest, which had its headquarters right across the street from the high school, had offered to build a pool for the school, with the only stipulation being that Digest employees be able to swim there on Saturday afternoons. The school board turned them down. Without a pool, the thought of a swim team seemed a bit far fetched, but I remember walking around with a clipboard and a petition and the backing of at least one of the teachers who was interested in seeing a swim program somehow come to the school. My acceptance to a boarding school with a swim program put an end to that exercise- I have no idea if they ever got either a swim team or a pool.

Working with the Friends of Vashon Pool has brought back a few of these ancient memories. One of the places that this campaign has taken me is to the Vashon High School and Richard Montague’s marketing class, where a group of students has been tasked with marketing the pool and its extended season to the Island. Two trips to this class has been a bit of an education for me, first of all in seeing what an amazing facility the new school is in all it has to offer, and secondly it provided an insight into the minds of the high school demographic. Having been a competitive swimmer during my high school years, the thought of not going to a pool or pools was never on my radar, and selling the idea of a pool available to all would not have been a problem for me at the time. With that in mind I asked the class how many of them had been to the pool in recent summers- none of them raised their hands. This kind of stunned me, although it probably shouldn’t have. As a teenager, there are plenty of other things to do besides hang out at the pool with lots of kids a few years their junior who are making loud kid noises and otherwise having kid fun.

The next day I asked the class, based on the clever slogan they had come up with for the pool- “Why Gym, if you can Swim?- how many of them would use the pool as an alternative to a gym class or workout. About a third of them raised their hands. One thing I neglected to ask was how many of them could swim at all, since one of the long term goals of the Friends of Vashon Pool is to advocate for the chance to have everyone here learn how to swim. It has been said a number of times in various places that we do live on an Island surrounded by water, and a number of people out here engage in a variety of water sports that can put one at risk of  an untimely exposure to water. Having been involved with the Whulger open water swim group, I can attest to the chilliness of the aquatic environment here. I can also say that if you go in the water anywhere around Vashon, if you have reasonable swimming skills you can get to a shore somewhere before the cold overtakes you.

With the school board recently giving the go-ahead to the repairs on the pool drain system, another impediment to the beginning of another successful outdoor season at the Vashon Pool was removed. Later this week we will hear from a pool repair contractor who is supposed to give  an estimate on what a general pool refurbishment will cost. As it appears that some state money could be available as early as this summer if the matching funds are available from the Island, this could mean that work toward a year round pool could possibly start earlier than expected. For further information about the future of Vashon Pool, come to the free open swim this Saturday, April 4th. There will be a lap swim from 11am-1pm and a general open swim from 1-3pm, with free food and warm drinks, as well as ice cream. Come and see the new thermal cover that was installed last Friday, and take advantage of the early bird rates on season passes, both for individuals and families. Pool manager Scott Bonney has promised a pool in the upper 80’s along with warm dressing rooms. We will also have the renderings on hand of what a year ‘round pool with a retractable roof would look like. They might even get you asking why gym if you can swim?