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Popular public facility . . . When everything is working right,
and the weather cooperates, Kenmare's pool is a popular
destination for area kids, and even some adults.
By Caroline Downs
For the first time in anyone’s memory, Kenmare city council members on the Ways and Means Committee toured the city pool, along with city employees and Kenmare Recreation Board president Fay Froseth.
“It was terrible,” Mayor Roger Ness said after he completed the walk-through inspection on Thursday. “We agreed unanimously that we have to do something.”
The pool opened for the summer season last week. While business was slow at first because of cool air temperatures and rainy weather last week, the deck and pool were busy Monday afternoon after the thermometer climbed above 80 degrees. More than 50 kids from toddlers to teenagers, along with a handful of adults, enjoyed an afternoon in the sun and water.
That’s exactly what Mayor Ness wants to see happening at the city’s pool. “It’s absolutely safe for public use,” he said after the tour, “but it needs a lot of upgrades.”
He described the pool as an asset to the community. “It improves the quality of life in Kenmare, especially for the kids,” he said. “It’s tough to finance sometimes, but it’s what this town needs, along with the country club and the movie theatre.”
Council member Troy Hedberg agreed with Ness as he listed some of the obvious problems. “There’s nothing wrong that would shut it down,” Hedberg said, “but we want a nice place. It’s dark in the bath house and it needs painting. The ground has settled on the west side of the bath house and the bricks are actually coming apart. There’s been heaving on the deck around the pool.”
He continued, “We want Kenmare to be a regional draw, and the pool is a part of that.”
Froseth was pleased the city council showed concern about the problems she has been dealing with since the Kenmare Recreation Board was given more direct oversight of the pool this year. “I showed them where the walls were shifting,” she said. “They saw the toilet situation in the boys bathroom, the cement issues where it’s been heaving because of the water table and frost, the furnace area.”
She added to the list, mentioning roof repairs, updating the filtering system and re-surfacing the entire pool. “The pool was built in 1979 and I know it was a beautiful facility when it opened,” she said, “but I pointed out it has served its time.”
Council ready to act
The group’s discussion on Thursday moved from the list of problems to options for resolving those issues. “Do we do a major renovation, or do we scrap it and move on?” Froseth said.
Ness said the committee brainstormed a quick list of possibilities for the pool, including a splash park, smaller pool, water park or even an indoor pool to be used year-round by individuals, area schools, physical therapy patients and nursing home residents. “Fay is going to check on options for us and report back,” he said. “I don’t see putting the money into fixing it as it is. It’s such a big pool, larger than what’s really needed, and we could scale it back without losing quality.”
Ness had actually visited the Ina Mae Rude Aquatic Center on Wednesday during a visit to Stanley. He expressed a desire to make something similar available to Kenmare residents.
“They use it year-round and it’s tied to the hospital and nursing home there,” he said. “People of all ages use it.”
Froseth started her research immediately, and preliminary cost estimates suggest that nearly $500,000 could be necessary to make the necessary repairs. “And then, why fix something that we use two and a half months out of the year?” she asked. “We can’t put a band-aid on a gaping wound. This is still a wonderful asset to the community, but that asset needs major repairs.”
She turned her attention to water park and aquatic facility builders. “We’re looking seriously at a 12-month building,” she said. The new facility could include features such as a smaller swimming pool suitable for lessons, laps and exercise, along with a water park for play and games, and a whirlpool or jetted pool for therapeutic use.
“It would be configured to be used by all ages,” she said. “We also want to invite area schools to use it as part of their physical education programs. One goal would be for swimming lessons to be taught year-round.”
Froseth used several aquatic facilities designed and built by Ramaker & Associates, Inc. of Sauk City, Wisconsin, for inspiration, and she has already contacted the company for further information about designing something similar for Kenmare. She recommended other persons interested in the Kenmare pool should visit the company’s website at www.buildawaterpark.com.
“You can see pictures of their various parks,” she said, “and you can see some possibilities for Kenmare.”
Froseth noted she is framing a proposal similar to the facility shown on the website for the 7 Clans Casino in Thief River Falls, MN, found under the “Resorts” category on the “Projects” webpage. She also liked the facilities built for the Tri-County YMCA and the Youth Leadership Academy, which can be seen under the “Community Pools/Schools” category.
Not a pipe dream
One option would be to construct a new pool in the Jaycees play park immediately south of the current pool. Space now used by the old pool could then be turned into a smaller play park as well as a parking lot for the new facility. The current pool would remain in use until the new pool was completed.
“We need a two-year goal for this, from start to opening day,” Froseth said. “If we keep dragging it out, it will keep getting more and more expensive.”
At this point, she is anticipating a total project cost between $500,000 and $750,000. “That seems like an astronomical amount of money,” she said, “but it’s something that’s needed for the community.”
Froseth was realistic about the city’s ability to contribute to the project. “I don’t want this to be a pipe dream, but it will not happen if we expect the city to pay for it,” she said, adding that infrastructure needs such as sewer, streets, sidewalks, water lines, roads and drainage all should be prioritized ahead of a pool. “I don’t think the city should take out a loan on it, either.”
She expects a mixed response to the project from community residents, but she is prepared to argue the case for building something new. “We have to be forward thinking,” she said. “We can’t wait for things to just happen, and we can’t stop doing things because it’s out of our comfort zone.”
Hedberg was looking forward to reviewing all the options for the pool, including refurbishing the current facility, building a new bath house, building a new outdoor pool, and even designing and constructing an indoor pool.
“I want to run the whole gamut of options,” he said, “and see what’s possible for us.”
Even without a definite renovation or construction plan approved yet, Froseth and other Kenmare Recreation Board members have been approached by community groups ready to assist in funding a project. “Giving to the community doesn’t stop when your kids aren’t participating anymore,” said Froseth. “If you live here, you’re still a part of the whole community.”
Individuals, businesses and organizations are invited to support a pool project for Kenmare. Froseth would also like to hear from Kenmare residents of all ages about what they would like to see and use in an aquatic facility. “I’m open to hearing suggestions or needs,” she said.
Froseth can be contacted at 701-848-6269.
She emphasized the Recreation Board’s commitment to keep a quality swimming pool available in the community. “It’s unacceptable not to have some sort of water recreation for our children,” she said, “and our adults.”