Fundraising campaign now underway to keep Evergreen Pool open
WhiteWater Aquatics Management, the non-profit organization that operates the Evergreen Community Aquatics Center pool in unincorporated King County faces a Jan. 15 deadline to raise $15,000 to keep the facility open.
“We need to pay off our utility bill,” WhiteWater Aquatics president Brian Hastings told the Burien City Council on Monday, Dec. 2. “It costs a lot of money to heat a 250,000 gallon pool.”
About 350 people from the greater area – 40 percent of them from Burien – use the pool every month,” Hastings noted.
Whether they will continue to have the opportunity to swim at their local pool depends on the success of this fundraiser. Come Jan. 15, “either we will have the money to pay our utility bill or we won’t,” he added.
High school senior Megan Kawaguchi – a participant on the Evergreen Community Aquatics Center swim team, who has earned a swimming scholarship to the University of Utah – told council members about the diversity of swimmers who go there, and the life-saving instruction provided in an area surrounded by water.
Noting as well the health benefits afforded those who take advantage of programs at the pool, Kawaguchi implored Burien lawmakers, “Please help us keep our doors open.”
Almost 4,000 children – and adults – have learned to swim at the White Center pool since it reopened under new management three years ago.
“That includes a good number of kids who are served by a good swimming program in a community with limited youth recreation opportunities,” General Manager Joel Schweiger recently noted.
This 44-year-old facility, long operated by King County, has been managed “pretty close to breaking even for three years” by the WhiteWater Aquatics Management, Schweiger said then.
But “pretty close” doesn’t balance the ledger – especially those utility and related costs necessary for operating the aquatics center that were unavoidably higher from the time the pool reopened until energy improvements could be made.
“It takes a lot of effort to help the pool break even,” Hastings told Burien council members. When Whitewater Aquatics took over the pool from the Highline School District, it was running an annual $170,000 deficit.
In just over three years, that has been reduced to a $50,000 annual deficit, he added, “and we are looking for sustainable funding.”
Upgrades to improve energy efficiency – a grant-funded purchase of a new boiler and a pool blanket to cover to cover the water and maintain temperature when the facility is closed – have already reduced energy costs by 40 percent, Schweiger said.
In addition, new filters paid for with another grant and recently installed are reducing chemical purchases by 15 percent.
Still, $15,000 in outstanding utility billings and related expenses, most incurred before these upgrades were made, have put the Evergreen pool on the brink again.
And if funds are not raised to pay these debts by mid-January the aquatic center will have to close – despite the fact it is busy almost all the time. Schweiger told The B-Town Blog the pool is filled to capacity when kids are out of school.
“The reality is that the pool’s costs of operating exceed revenue due to capacity, he added. For example, kids who get free or reduced lunches at school also get swimming lessons free or at reduced cost.
“It’s important to find both immediate and long-term income to keep this pool open “because there’s not a lot of positive youth activities in White Center that are safe and fun.”
Leilani Berry of Boulevard Park underscored his observation in a recent letter to the B-Town Blog.
“This is where we take our kid for swim lessons – it’s beautiful and full of kids of Color,” she wrote. “It’d be so sad if it had to close.”
Sarah Airhart with the Community School of West Seattle told the blog that “minority children are four times more likely to drown than white children, mainly because of the lack of knowing how to swim. We are proud to say that in the three years the pool has been opened over 3,800 children have learned to swim.”
She added, “Our community cannot afford to lose its only pool or the desperately needed affordable swim lessons and the women’s only swim time that it offers, as well as many other community swim events including a terrific swim team.”
Please visit any of the sites below to contribute. Your contribution is tax-deductible, as both ECAC and WWA are 501c3 charities. Thank you for your support!
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**Donations made to CrowdRise and GoFundMe are ear-marked for ECAC.