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A parks and recreation facility would quickly become a gem in our community, serving thousands

Lake Oswego has a lot of assets — natural areas, a vibrant downtown, a farmers market, outdoor art and a lot of people who really care about this community, to name a few. What it does not have is affordable recreation space for youth and families, or a warm-water pool for youth swim lessons.

For swim lessons, you can go to Lake Oswego High School (LOHS) and, during limited and inconvenient hours, take lessons in a chilly competitive-sized pool. You can drive to Mountain Park, Canby, SW Portland or North Clackamas. You can join a pricey private pool. Many families struggle to access swim lessons in a city with a lake in the middle and rivers on two sides. Our youth need a pool that supports swimming instruction.

The City of Lake Oswego and Lake Oswego School District (LOSD) have proposed joining together to build a public pool, parks and recreation center. The proposal includes a stretch, competitive, cool-water pool (25 yards, 12 lanes — four more lanes than current LOSD pool); a smaller warm-water pool for swimming lessons, water aerobics and therapy classes; and dry facilities — a fitness room, meeting room, and administrative offices.

The current proposal is for LOSD to fund half (since their charge includes providing a pool for swim teams) and the City to fund half (because the warm-water pool, classroom, meeting room and office space are services a city provides). A partnership here between the City and LOSD makes sense. No decisions have been made yet. But talking is good.

While they are talking, I urge them to also discuss expanding the warm-water pool to include a modest play area for children — because we will only dig once for pools, so we should plan it at the beginning — and create a long-term plan for a future gym and more fitness spaces.

Where will this center go? For a while, citizens thought LOSD and the city might partner to build a competitive cool-water pool plus recreational warm-water pool at Lakeridge Middle School. But it turns out, the site is not large enough.

The only other option on LOSD property is to repair the existing pool — which is what LOSD will do if they do not partner with the City. It will be the same size — meaning it won't meet the huge demand for pool time that is leading swimmers outside LO.

In late 2019, LOSD and the city started discussing the idea of locating a cool-water pool and warm-water on City-owned property. And because the parks board has for many years recommended building a parks and rec facility, the discussion expanded to include dry rec spaces like fitness rooms.

There are two places owned by the City that are flat enough and big enough for this. One is Rassekh (near Luscher Farm). The City has been planning for several years to build artificial turf fields at Rassekh to help meet youth sports demand. If a parks and recreation facility is built there, we lose the opportunity for more fields, which the City's 2019 fields assessment indicates we need.

Another is the municipal golf course. The current proposal is to build the center there, developing 4.88 acres of the 39.5-acre course. It's true that this is not centrally located, but there is truly no other place big enough in Lake Oswego that is centrally located. And yes, some are passionate about the current golf course. I understand this. But golf would still be available as a 9-hole course, with more space for each hole than currently, and we'd also have a pool, parks and rec center — a win-win-win.

I urge LOSD and the city to partner effectively to meet the long-term needs of its middle- and lower-income citizens and build this center. Families will flock there, which will generate revenue. I know funds are limited, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We need a long-term vision and strategic planning, not the status quo.

A parks and recreation facility would quickly become a gem in our community, serving thousands of youth, adults and seniors with affordable, varied programming. Living well in LO means everyone has access to affordable fitness, learning and recreation. Let's do this. Petition available at: tiny.cc/LOreccenter.

Natalie Bennon lives in Hallinan and recently served on the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Advisory Board.


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