The Spokane Parks Foundation called a meeting Tuesday evening to coordinate fundraising toward bringing back free swimming for some of Spokane’s children.
Early last year the Spokane Park Board voted to impose a $1 fee for swimmers age 4 through 17, with adults continuing to pay $2 per day.
The adoption of a swim fee was very unpopular with children’s advocates who maintain that access to free swimming provides a safe and healthy summer activity especially for low-income children.
For the 2010 season, a pass for children age 4 through 17 will be $30. A pass will be $60 for adults.
“For a single mom, a dollar a kid for three kids, every day, is a lot of money,” said Brenda Corbett, chairwoman of the West Central Neighborhood Association. “And $30 for a season pass is money these families simply don’t have.”
Last swim season saw many spontaneous cash donations.
“We had people who’d leave five bucks at the pool register and say, ‘Give that to the next kids that can’t pay,’ ” said Carl Strong, aquatics director with the Spokane Parks Department. “I don’t know how many kids were turned away because they couldn’t pay.”
Strong said more people used the pools in the 2009 season, than the year before.
Toni Nersesian, executive director of the Spokane Parks Foundation, said people were sending donations to the Parks Foundation to help children access the pools.
“And a lot of people were talking about fundraising – but no one was talking to one another,” Nersesian said. “The group around this table is not the Parks Foundation’s committee, we just called the meeting.”
Connie Nelson of Spokane Valley Partners said the Spokane Valley City Council gave $600 to pay for swim passes last year.
“I would like to see us do something regionally, so children have the same access to swimming no matter where they live,” Nelson said.
Corbett volunteered to be the contact person for the swim fee fundraising group.
Representatives from local businesses and several Lions Clubs were at the meeting as well.
“We’d like to challenge other service organizations in town to beat our fundraising efforts,” said Mike Brewer, president of the Hillyard Lions Club.
Ideas such as Coats For Kids-style campaigns or penny drives were brought up.