Open house draws fans of new pool, wellness center facility in Port Townsend

Healthier Together event seeks feedback, solutions from patrons

PORT TOWNSEND — The Mountain View Commons was the overwhelming choice for the site of a new facility that combines a wellness center and a new municipal pool during an open house on the Healthier Together project.

More than 80 people showed up at Fort Worden Commons on March 14 for the first of three open houses on the city’s project for building a new health and wellness center and a new pool that will replace the aging facility at Mountain View.

Two more open houses are planned, one in May and one in June. Exact dates have not been scheduled.

Audience members were asked to place round stickers on the poster with their preferred locations for the new facility. Following Mountain View, where the present pool is located, were the Port Townsend Golf Course, Evans Vista and Jefferson Healthcare.

Jim Kalvelage of the Portland firm Opsis Architecture, which the city hired to create a feasibility study, presented an overview of the project and sought input regarding the kinds of amenities and features people wanted to see at the new facility and their preferences for site location.

Opsis presented a concept for the wellness center that had a fitness room for strength training, cardio and perhaps physical therapy; a group exercise room for classes like yoga, dance and stationary cycling; and a flexible space that could be used as classroom for cooking classes or for children’s birthday parties.

A six-lane, 25-yard lap pool would be central to the facility, which might also be able to accommodate a warm-water recreation pool for therapy, rehabilitation and exercise.

“The highest priority is really thinking about the lap pool replacement,” Kalvelage said. “It’s older and there are mechanical issues, and you can’t get parts that you need to keep it running.”

Christine Jacobson said she was at the open house because she had been swimming laps at the Mountain View pool for the past eight years and wanted to learn more about plans for a new facility.

“I’m not especially into [exercise] machines, but I do like the ideas of a warm water pool because a lot of people can use it,” Jacobson said.

For Deborah Poole, whose daughter competes on the Port Townsend High School swim team, having a regulation-size pool means the school could host swim meets.

“It’s too late for my daughter, because she’ll be gone by the time it’s built,” Poole said. “We practice in Sequim and beg other teams to hold meets there.”

Poole said that adding a diving well to a new pool, which was not included in Opsis’ presentation, would encourage more students to swim and attract visiting teams.

Jim Dow said he was less interested in the pool than he was in pickleball.

“We want to be here so they don’t forget about us,” said Dow, who is on the board of the Port Townsend Pickleball Club.

Dow said the club had a good relationship working with the city to build new courts.

“But we could use way, way more,” he said.

But it was the pool that drew the most attention and elicited the most questions. Of primary concern was that the Mountain View pool remain open until the pool at the new wellness center was ready.

“No matter where it goes, one would build the new facility and then tear the existing one down,” Kalvelage said. “The idea is there’s no down time. That’s really important criteria.”

The Healthier Together project includes a community engagement component, but decision-making lies with a steering committee composed of two nonprofits, Jefferson Aquatics Coalition and the Olympic Peninsula YMCA, and five public organizations that contributed a total of $190,000 for the planning phase of the project, including site selection, design and financing.

The five organizations and the amounts they contributed are City of Port Townsend ($30,000); Jefferson County ($100,000); Jefferson County Hospital District/Jefferson Healthcare ($50,000); Port of Port Townsend ($5,000); and Port Townsend School District ($5,000).

Different efforts

Healthier Together is separate from Envision Port Townsend Golf Course and Mountain View Commons.

The Envision project is overseen by community stakeholders who have been working with the city and Groundswell, an architecture, urban design and planning firm the city hired to develop a recommendation for the future of the Port Townsend Golf Course.

The pool at Mountain View Commons is not part of the Envision project.

However, Mountain View is part of the Healthier Together project. It is one of four sites on public land that are being considered for the health and wellness center and pool. The others are Evans Vista, a plot of land the city purchased to use for affordable housing off West Sims Way; the Jefferson Healthcare campus on Sheridan Street; and the south side of the Port Townsend Golf Course.

Using land that was already owned by the public means more funds could be dedicated to facility itself, said Carrie Hite, Port Townsend director of parks strategy.

The price of carrying out the work of constructing a health and wellness facility and pool, as well as any demolition of Mountain View, if that site is selected, is something Opsis must determine and the steering committee must approve before the plan is submitted to the city council.

“We’re not at the point yet of really developing a cost estimate that is comprehensive,” Kalvelage said. “But we will.”

For more information about Healthier Together, go to tinyurl.com/yu2mfhsk.

To provide comments and feedback on Healthier Together, go to tinyurl.com/2bc6f8t5.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

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