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Veterans Memorial Pool still going strong

Ebany and Jaydon help Javin Johnson swim at the Veterans Memorial Pool this past Saturday. Carrie Snyder / Forum Communications Co.

The Veteran's Memorial Swimming Pool, a fixture in the community for nearly 60 years at 131 6th Ave. E., is still going strong thanks to the support of West Fargo VFW Post 7564 and Auxiliary.

The organization presented a $15,000 donation to the West Fargo Park District staff earlier this month for continued upkeep and operation, which is coordinated annually by the Park District staff.

The pool was originally constructed in 1956 at a cost of $38,000. The city of West Fargo ran it for a number of years before the West Fargo Park District and West Fargo VFW became involved.

The VFW began their connection in 1978, and since that time has donated a whopping $1.4 million to date to see that the pool is maintained as a source of summer entertainment for the youth and adults of the community, according to Jamie Olson, facilities manager for the Park District including the Veterans Memorial Arena and the swimming pool.

He said the VFW initially became involved because they wanted to make sure that everyone would be able to swim free at the pool. "We have 30,000 to 35,000 kids who swim here in the summer," Olson said. "Since 1978, that's a lot of people utilizing the facility, all thanks to the VFW."

There is no doubt that it is the generous support of the VFW that keeps the pool open with Olson adding he's not sure how longer the pool will be able to operate, given its present deteriorating condition. "The facility would have closed long ago if it wasn't for the VFW. We don't know how much longer the pool will be able to last as it seems we are always needing bigger band aids to correct problems. If something major goes wrong the pool could shut down tomorrow."

The talk has become even more intense regarding the Vets Pool's future since a feasibility study was approved recently regarding a new Aquatics Facility and Community Center, with the findings on the study expected in September.

In essence, what the VFW's donations are accomplishing is keeping the pool open.

The last major renovation was a joint project between the park district and VFW in 1995 when the bath houses were completely redone. The park contributed $20,000 and the VFW $50,000 at the outset, but when all was said and done the VFW's total contribution was $139,000, which covered project overrun and general operating expenses.

This year, the pool was updated in areas needing it the most, including some painting and replacement of wood on the building's exterior.

What remains are issues with the concrete and the clarity of pool, due to the old filtration system presently being used. The proper mix of chemicals is keeping things in check, always turning great water samples, with the goal Olson said, of making sure the pool is always safe and clean for public use, buoyed by inspections from local department of public health officials.

"All along, the VFW has been showing a very high regard for the community and its families," Olson added. "They want to have quality entertainment for everybody in the community and what their involvement comes down to is $41,000 a year, which is a dollar per swimmer."

Olson noted that there were years when this donation became a struggle for the VFW as gaming revenues declined. That's why for the past six years, a community fundraiser for the pool has been held in late February to help arrive at monetary goals required for its operation.

Olson said he has managed the pool for 15 year s and never once during that time saw the VFW's commitment waiver. If and when the pool does close at its present location he hopes the park district will establish another water-related activity in the same spot named specially in honor of the VFW.

Right now the pool with the hot summer temperatures is at peak capacity which is 417 swimmers. "The hot weather brings everybody out," stated Olson. "As of Friday, we were at 9800 people for the summer season, which is about right on. We are going to get into the dog days of summer now and will be really busy all the time."

"The pool provides a really great service for the community and the swimmers are really appreciative of it. We have many, many repeat visitors who use the pool and think the free swim is just great."

Olson reiterated that "one day the pool is going to go away, but in the meantime, everybody is definitely enjoying it one day at a time."

The pool is open seven days a week from 1 to 4:30 p.m. for open swim, 6 to 6:45 p. m. for family swim and 7 to 8:30 p.m. for open swim. Seven lifeguards are on duty each day to assure everyone's safety.

"We are doing the best we can with what we have," Olson stated. "We have a great staff, and the VFW is an outstanding organization that makes this all possible."

VFW Post Quartermaster Bill Tuff said the VFW is pleased to be able to make these yearly contributions. "It is our hope that a water-related activity will always continue in this part of town as it is needed by local residents in this intercity area. A lot of these people who enjoy the pool don't have the ability to drive elsewhere so we would definitely like to retain something here."