The latest attraction at North Whidbey Pool, Park and Recreation District is making a splash, literally.
A new water slide in the pool will have its grand opening at 7 p.m. on April 1, but it’s no April Fools joke. A few years ago, a new addition to the facility would have seemed like an impossibility. A levy failure in 2017 caused the pool to close for almost a year, explained board member Juli Brooks-Leete. It took a slew of private donations to reopen and renovate the building, which was badly in need of repairs.
“We came together as a community to raise funds,” Brooks-Leete said. “That’s why it’s been such an emotional journey.”
She said partnerships with the Oak Harbor School District, the city of Oak Harbor and the Rotary Club helped reopen the pool, along with donations from individuals. Another levy was successfully passed by the community in 2019. Unfortunately, the pool had to close again for several months in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Even when it was struggling to stay open, Brooks-Leete said she always had a dream to add a water slide to the pool. Executive Director Jay Cochran spearheaded the effort. She wrote a grant for the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee of Oak Harbor which provides money to promote tourism in the city. Last December, the facility received $37,384 from the city for the slide installation. Better Homes and Garden Realty contributed an additional $5,000.
Cochran said she always books hotels that have pools for her children when she travels, and she thinks the addition of the water slide will help draw in tourists.
“We have a lot of amenities for a small pool that a lot of other pools of our size don’t have,” Cochran said. “So I think it’s a great benefit here on the island.”
Of course, it’s also a great thing for locals and it’s not just for kids. On the Thursday before its grand opening, several members of an aerobics class took that chance to test out the slide. Because there is not a lot of space between the wall and the edge of the pool, the tubular slide is rather short.
“When we were training lifeguards on it, they said they were surprised at how quickly it went,” Cochran said. “It really shoots you out and then there’s that drop into the water.”
She said she hopes the slide opening will bring people’s attention back to the facility, which is expanding its programs. Not just a pool, the facility has a hot tub, sauna, two baseball fields and a dog park. A fly fishing club is starting this spring for people 16 years and older and an adult soccer program is beginning this summer.
“People sometimes think this place is just for kids, I can assure you it’s (for) everyone,” Brooks-Leete said.
Both women said they couldn’t imagine living in a community without a pool, especially with the importance of swim lessons for children who live on an island. They also wanted to draw attention to two open board positions for North Whidbey Pool, Park and Recreation District up for reelection this year. More information on Island County’s website. More information about the pool itself can be found at nwpprd.org.