The city will commemorate the Aquatic Center's anniversary with special activites, food carts and more.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - A preschool-level lesson is taught at the Forest Grove Aquatic Center this week. The indoor pool allows for all-season lessons and free swims.The Forest Grove Aquatic Center turns 50 years old on Saturday, June 16, and the city will be celebrating the occasion all day.

Festivities kick off at 9 a.m., with speeches by Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax, Parks & Recreation Director Tom Gamble, and a member of the original group from 50 years ago that started the initiative to build an indoor pool in Forest Grove. The celebration continues from 1 to 3 p.m. with a public swim featuring special activities, at which guests will be charged the 1968 price of admission: 25 cents for kids and 50 cents for adults.

The Aquatic Center has its dedicated customers, but Gamble said next Saturday's celebration will welcome those who aren't regular pool-goers as well.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Forest Grove Swim Club members await instructions during practice at the Forest Grove Aquatic Center."At 3 p.m., when the public swim ends, we're going to set up for what we are calling an 'all-comers swim meet,' for kids that don't typically swim on a swim team," he explained.

The celebration will include food carts from local vendors in the Aquatic Center parking lot to give people the chance to eat and reacquaint themselves with each other, Gamble said.

In addition to getting to know each other again, guests will also have the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the town.

"We are expecting people who are returning to Forest Grove to be interested in what's changed," Gamble said. "There will be self-guiding maps of Lincoln and Thatcher parks, which have changed a lot in recent years, as well as Tom McCall Upper Elementary School and Forest Grove High School."

There will also be tours around the schools.

One reason the city is celebrating the pool is because it serves everyone in Forest Grove.

"We are one of the few programs in Forest Grove that serves infants all the way up to our oldest member who is probably 100 years old, and everybody in between," Gamble said. "We have a much broader user group than we did 50 years ago."

That broad user base now includes swim teams from the Forest Grove School District and Pacific University.

The anniversary is also a celebration of the community's commitment to teach its kids to swim.

"We teach a lot of kids to swim here," Gamble said. "That was one of the big deals then (in 1968), and it continues to be now."

An indoor swimming pool in a small Oregon town was a rarity 50 years ago, but the Forest Grove Aquatic Center came to be when a group of local Kiwanis Club members decided it would be nice if the community could swim all year-round. At the time, Forest Grove had an outdoor pool, which was only used a couple months out of the year. Those Kiwanis Club members formed the "Swim All Year" committee and earned the backing of the City of Forest Grove.

"Forest Grove really stepped out in 1968 to build an indoor pool for a community of our size, keeping in mind that we were only a town of about 5,000," Gamble said.

When the Swim All Year committee organized, some of their most important missions were year-round recreational swimming, and most importantly swimming lessons, Gamble said.

As for what lies ahead for the pool, the city plans to examine next year whether "our water space is adequate for our community," Gamble said. The city may determine changes are necessary after that analysis.

The anniversary party is the first of its kind for the Aquatic Center, which has hosted holiday parties before. The city decided 50 years of year-round community swimming and teaching kids to swim deserves an even bigger celebration.

The Forest Grove Aquatic Center is located at 2300 Sunset Drive. Regular hours Saturday are 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Aquatic Center opens earlier on weekdays, starting operations at 8:30 a.m. and continuing until 9:30 p.m. (or 9 p.m. Fridays). On Sundays, it is open for just three hours in the afternoon, from 2 to 5 p.m.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The Forest Grove Aquatic Center was a marvel for a town of Forest Grove's size when it was built 50 years ago. The city is celebrating the anniversary on Saturday, June 16, with a public event.

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