Kyle Jensen / The Record — Members from South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation sit it on the monthly parks district commissioner meeting.

South Whidbey group looking at building public pool

Serious efforts to bring a public pool to South Whidbey appear to be back.

After a shakeup in leadership on the South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation board last year, the non-profit organization is beginning to make the initial steps — once again — toward its eventual goal of constructing a swimming pool.

To set the process in motion, board members increased collaborative efforts with South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District to work together on grant applications and raise community interest.

“We are all motivated and focused on bringing a public swimming pool to the South End,” South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation board president Andrea Newton said. “That’s our goal, but we’re open to other suggestions of how we can meet the community’s needs.”

The process toward the proposed pool is in the early stages. Discussions between the district and the nonprofit have primarily focused on how the two entities can revitalize community interest.

A controversial $15.2 million plan proposed by the parks district in 2008 died with 62 percent of voters against the project; just 37 percent voted for the pool. It was widely criticized as too expensive.

Efforts renewed in 2013 but they failed to come to fruition.

Given the past ballot failure, the district and nonprofit discussed the grant application process as a way to raise the necessary funds as an alternative to a tax hike. District commissioner Matt Simms provided tips on how to tackle the application process to improve the foundation’s chances of scoring money from the state.

“If you’re shovel-ready, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting grant money,” Simms said. “It’s written on a napkin at the moment; we have a lot to do to get to the state grant process.”

According to both Newton and park Director Doug Coutts, efforts to bring a pool to South Whidbey never disappeared, but there is “renewed interest” from the foundation’s new board members. The organization’s long-time president, Krista Loercher, left in early 2016, and her replacement followed suit the same summer. New leadership breathed new life into the effort.

“We hope to jointly work on some grant efforts in preparation for obtaining some large publicly available grants,” Newton said. “Doug has been very supportive to the board in this time of transition, and collaboration between us will lead to coordinated efforts and hopefully a swimming pool in the future.”