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by Caroline Downs

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Time for another pool project . . .

Posted 6/27/13 (Thu)

When I was a kid in Gillette, Wyoming, the community built and opened a new recreation center.

The event was magical.

Of course, we loved the city’s outdoor pool at the park, with its crazy little pool house and the trees growing around the outside of the chain link fence, offering a little shade on summer afternoons. I took a few swimming lessons there and remember being brave enough to jump off the diving board.

But the new recreation center amazed us.

There was a lobby and a section of separate rooms for other activities and classes. We got actual baskets to stash our clothes and shoes while we swam, with labels to pin on our swimming suits so we knew the basket number, and the locker rooms had fancy benches, and mirrors even.

And the pool...oh, that pool! Long lanes for swimming and lessons and, later, for the school’s first swim team where friends of mine became state and national champions.

The “deep end” where we practiced treading water and other water safety skills in the advanced swimming classes, and where the high diving board beckoned brave souls.

The walls, three of them removable for summer weather, but all of them locked securely in place when we went swimming in November or January or March.

It was a thrill to think we could actually go there to swim in November, January and March.

The “Rec Center,” as we all called it, opened sometime in the mid or late 1970s, probably just a couple years before Kenmare’s new pool opened on Central Avenue.

Believe me, whether the kids were in Kenmare, ND, or Gillette, WY, for those openings, they didn’t know or care what the pools cost. They were just delighted to have a place for water recreation and socializing.

Those pools both served thousands of people for several years. I checked the Campbell County Parks & Recreation website this week and discovered an updated “Rec Center” opened in 2010 with new features, including a rock climbing wall and indoor track.

The CCPR Department coordinated their project with the school district, so sports teams and physical education classes use the facility. I imagine the construction costs were shared. I would guess that, knowing kids, most of the ones who swim or run or climb the rock wall know nothing about the expenses involved and everything about making fun there.

Of course, Kenmare is nowhere near the size of Gillette, but kids are kids everywhere and kids in Kenmare could use a new place to swim.

The Kenmare pool is 33 years old--that’s 33 years spent in North Dakota weather, not some mellow climate--and in need of major updates, if you listen to Recreation Board president Fay Froseth and Mayor Roger Ness. In researching the history of Kenmare’s pool, I was impressed by the level of commitment from the community in 1979 and 1980--the number of people involved, from the pool committee members themselves to the local sub-contractors and suppliers of building materials to all the residents who pledged funds toward the project.

It was a beautiful facility for its time, but that time is winding down now. Yes, the pool can still be used and kids are happy--about 50 exuberant kids when I stopped Monday afternoon.

As adults, though, we look at the condition of the building and equipment and realize changes must be made.

It’s time for another community pool project, time for this generation of Kenmare residents to support the quality of living in this town.

You’ll be heroes to the kids and part of the story someone tells 30 years from now about the way Kenmare decided to build a new pool facility in 2013, with the grand opening scheduled for -----.