For the week of June 16, 1999  thru June 23, 1999  

Ketchum pool may be on August ballot

Express Staff Writer

People in Ketchum want to swim for exercise, and they want to do it in Ketchum.

That was one basic conclusion drawn at a packed joint meeting of the Blaine County Recreation District and city of Ketchum last Tuesday night at Ketchum City Hall.

People who spoke said they also want their children to be able to play close to home; they want to cater to tourists; but mainly, they just want the opportunity to swim in a north valley public swimming pool.

The recreation district and Ketchum are still aiming for an August bond issue that would fund a recreation center in Hailey and a hot-spring-heated pool in Ketchum.

Initial estimates put the cost of the two projects at $7 million, according to recreation district director Mary Austin Crofts.

Tuesday’s meeting was designed for recreation district and Ketchum officials to hear what the public wants, as well as to gain professional guidance.

The recreation district board will vote on whether or not to combine the two projects on one bond in August. It will also consider the feasibility of combining the projects at all and may consider holding off until the November election to put the bond question on local ballots.

Carl Hurst and Chuck Numan, representing Water Technology Inc., a community recreation center planner, were on hand to field questions and offer direction in the valley’s efforts to strike a balance between pool and recreation facilities construction.

Numan said he thought the four Wood River Valley communities only need one aquatics facility. He said recent shifts in pool design have made it possible to meet diverse needs under one roof.

"But as we began to analyze how things work here, it became apparent that you really need two locations because of how things work in the valley," Numan said.

He stressed that facilities should not duplicate one another but be complementary. Ketchum’s proposal to construct a geothermal-heated pool would complement the existing Hailey pool, located near the Fox Acres Barn and Wood River High School. The bond issue would also fund enclosure of the Hailey pool and construction of the recreation center. The two projects would be complementary, Numan said, and would work well.

Hurst then gave a presentation on options that could be explored for Ketchum’s facility. He pushed the concept of a family aquatics center, as opposed to a traditional style pool.

Statistically, people don’t use the traditional pools, he said.

He cited some of the concepts often employed in a family aquatic center—a beach- like area that enables small children to play in shallow water; fountains or waterfalls; water playgrounds; small water slides; lap pools; competitive pools; diving areas, and spas and whirlpools.

And to combine a geothermal resource with some of the features commonly found in aquatics centers would be unique, Numan said.

Ketchum has been given the use of water from Guyer Hot Spring, which seeps out of Bald Mountain along Warm Springs, the same spring that was used to heat pools at Bald Mountain Hot Spring that were closed in 1994.

The city has explored several ways to exploit the resource in addition to heating the pool. The preferred additional use, so far, is to heat the parking lots at the pool at the proposed Janns Activity Center at the park & ride lot when all of the facilities are completed, Tom Drougas, Ketchum resident and once geothermal heating district manager said.

Throughout the past year, Drougas has assisted the city in exploring its options for the hot spring’s use.

Ketchum’s pool would be built on the park-and-ride lot, land it purchased through a bond issue for the purpose of parking and eventual construction of recreation facilities.

Due to new Department of Environmental Quality regulations, Drougas said, the city would not be able to dispose of used hot spring water in Warm Springs Creek, as was initially planned. Instead, the used water would have to be injected, through a well, back into the water aquifer below the city.

Ketchum Councilwoman Chris Potters suggested that Ketchum’s facility and the Hailey facility should be accessible for one fee. Those purchasing access to one of the facilities would also gain access to the other.

"We’d like the community to be able to join both pools under one fee," she said.

Crofts, who liked Potters’ idea, said the fee structure initially conceived for Hailey’s facility would be $25 per month with a year’s commitment. Discounts would be provided for families.

Ketchum resident Steve Horowitz spoke in favor of construction both facilities.

"Having two facilities can take care of all the aquatic needs of the valley," he said.

But the design of Ketchum’s pool is still up in the air. In an introduction, Potters said Ketchum’s plan was to construct heated leisure pools to complement the more recreational-oriented facility in Hailey.

"We can’t afford everything," she said.

But Ketchum residents who spoke Tuesday night said they want the option of lap swimming in the north valley.

"This is a city full of jocks. We’re not a bunch of sitters," resident Ann Christensen said.

Building a half-dome cover and offering outdoor and winter lap swimming and leisure pools were all mentioned as possibilities for Ketchum’s facility.

The recreation district will hold a board meeting at the Blaine County Courthouse tomorrow at 5 p.m. and will discuss the feasibility of combining the two pools on one bond issue.


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