Campaign Launched To Save Des Moines’ Mt. Rainier Pool

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On the 34th anniversary of the opening of Des Moines’ Mt. Rainier Pool (Sept. 15, 1975), a campaign called “Save Our Swimming,” intended to help pass Des Moines Proposition 1, launched its website at

In response to tightening finances, Des Moines City Council members in July decided to allow residents the opportunity to put the pool on firm financial standing. Prop. 1 would create a metropolitan park district with the soul purpose of administering Mount Rainier Pool. It will be governed by a five-member board of commissioners that will also be elected on the general election ballot. The district would have the authority to levy up to 20 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation to operate the pool. With $280,000 the average assessment of a Des Moines home, the levy would be $56 per year, or approximately $1 per week.

If the measure fails, the pool will close on Dec. 31st. While Burien doesn’t have its own public pool, it’s smack-dab between Mt. Rainier’s and the now-shuttered Evergreen Pool in White Center. Could the fate of this pool be similar to Evergreen? Only time will tell.

The new website carries information about Prop. 1 and how citizens can get involved in the effort to preserve swimming in our community. Upcoming events will be listed and details about Prop. 1 will be outlined.

Since voters approved Forward Thrust – a comprehensive bond package – in 1968, the citizens of Des Moines have supported a wide-range of water-related education at Mount Rainier Pool. Literally thousands of children have been taught to swim, seniors are extending both the length and quality of their lives with low-impact water aerobics, and families have had a safe, supervised place to recreate.

“Statistics show that nine Americans drown every day. Three of them are children,” said Gene Achziger, campaign media consultant. “The best way to combat those tragedies is to teach kids how to swim. And what better goal for ‘The Waterland City’ than to have water safety education available to every child?”

But Mount Rainier Pool does much more. One of the biggest proponents of the water aerobics program is soon-to-be 105-year-old Faith Callahan of Wesley Homes who exercises at the pool three days a week. SCUBA lessons are taught there and both Boeing and Alaska Airlines use the pool for water certification exercises for their flight personnel. Kick in the pool parties, CPR and lifesaving training, family swims and occasional full-immersion baptismal ceremonies and you’ve got one busy pool.

And then there are the girls and boys swim teams at Mount Rainier High that produce some of the best competitive swimmers in the state, many of whom continue their educations on scholarships at colleges and universities across the country.

Ariana Kukors, who trained at Mt. Rainier Pool, broke a world record in Rome this summer.

Mount Rainier Pool also trains some of the best athletes in the world. Federal Way native Ariana Kukors swims for KING Aquatics Club that is based at the pool. She just shattered the world’s record in the 200IM while competing last month in Rome. Two of her practice partners are Olympians Megan (Quann) Jendrick and Margaret Hoelzer.

“Mount Rainier Pool has been one of the best kept secrets in Des Moines,” Achziger said. “Partly because it’s not on the main drag, and partly because it wasn’t able to advertise its services when the county operated the pool, not that many people realize what a gem we have here or even where it is.”

But thousands of school kids do know where the pool is and any previous times the City Council has addressed the issue of whether to close it, those kids and their parents have flooded City Council chambers to advocate for its retention.

“Parents have always strived to leave their children a better world than their parents were able to leave for them. Forty years ago, voters approved this wonderful opportunity for their children. It’s a wonderful legacy and certainly one worth preserving for the next generation,” Achziger added.

SOS is chaired by Willie C. Salmond Jr. and the treasurer is Nancy Kuehnoel. They can be contacted at: [email protected].

Here’s more info on Proposition 1 as well as the history of the pool:

Prop. 1 would form a Metropolitan Park District to be governed by a five-member elected board of metropolitan park commissioners for the purpose of generating funds for Mount Rainier Pool maintenance, operation and capital improvement expenditures.

The initial levy amount would be set at 20 cents per
 $1,000 of assessed property valuation ($56 annually
 on a typical $280,000 Des Moines home). Under state
 law, once the tax rate has been set, it can only
 increase by a maximum of 1% per year unless
 approved by the voters.

Located on the southwest edge of the Mount Rainier High School campus, Mount Rainier Pool is a 14,640 square foot facility in the City of Des Moines.

The tank itself is a six-lane competition style pool that varies from 3 feet in the shallow end to 12 feet in the diving tank/deep end. There is a movable bulkhead that separates the pool into two sections that is currently fixed in place due to several challenges associated with moving it. The volume of the pool is 240,000 gallons that are circulated every 6 hours through two high rate sand filters.

The pool had a minor upgrade in 1987 and a major mechanical system upgrade in 1997. A small amount of electrical system and architectural ceiling work was also completed as part of the 1997 upgrade.

Mount Rainier Pool is managed by Aquatics Management Group, which also manages the former Kent Forward Thrust pool.

The pool is generally open to the community year round from 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. In addition to recreational and lap swimming, classes in beginning swimming, lifesaving and CPR are conducted. There are programs for low-impact aerobics for seniors and the infirm. The pool is also rented periodically for events ranging from birthday pool parties to baptismal ceremonies. SCUBA lessons are conducted and, periodically, both Boeing and Alaska Airlines use the pool to train personnel for water safety certification.

Also, the pool is heavily used for competitive sports on the local high school and swim club levels. Mount Rainier Pool is the “home” facility for the Mount Rainier, Highline and Tyee high schools swimming and diving teams. KING Aquatics Club, which boasts both Olympic and World Champion level swimmers, also uses Mount Rainier Pool as a practice facility.

On Feb. 13, 1968, King County voters passed Proposition 3, the $118 million parks and recreation component of the comprehensive Forward Thrust bond issue. The vote was 64.7 percent in favor. At the time, it was the largest parks and recreation bond passed in the United States.

This led to the construction of Mount Rainier Pool in Des Moines. The pool was formally dedicated on September 15, 1975. Virtually all of the pools were erected on local school district property, in this case the Highline School District.

Facing budget constraints, King County announced in 2003 that it intended to transfer ownership of its Forward Thrust pools to local municipalities or close them unless such agreements could be reached. Mount Rainier Pool was operated by King County until Jan. 1, 2004, when the cities of Des Moines and Normandy Park assumed the Mount Rainier Pool Lease Agreement originally negotiated between King County and Highline School District. On March 6, 2009, ownership of the pool was transferred to Highline School District.

By interlocal agreement, the cities of Des Moines, Normandy Park and SeaTac, along with Highline School District, are members of the Mount Rainier Pool Contributors through Dec. 31, 2009. With the opening of a new YMCA pool in SeaTac, that city has now dropped out of the contributors group. Highline School District has indicated it will no longer contribute to the MRPC after the end of the year, but will negotiate a lease to a suitable entity for continued operation of the pool.

In response, both the cities of Des Moines and Normandy Park have placed propositions on the Nov. 3 ballot to create metropolitan park districts to oversee and operate Mount Rainier Pool.

There are, however, important distinctions between the two propositions. Des Moines Prop. 1 would levy an assessment of 20 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation and encompass only the operation of the pool, while Normandy Park Prop. would levy an assessment of 75 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation an encompass operation of the pool and Normandy Park’s entire parks and recreation operation.

Also, while the Normandy Park metropolitan park district would be governed by the existing city council, the Des Moines pool metropolitan park district will be governed by an independently elected 5-member board of commissioners.

Candidates for those positions will also be on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Because each city’s propositions will be approved or rejected independently, the assessment in the Des Moines proposal would generate enough funds on its own to maintain and operate Mount Rainier Pool. The amount of the Des Moines levy could be reduced if both cities pass their propositions.

Based on Des Moines’ 2009 assessed valuation of $3,239,586,031, a levy of 20 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation will generate $647,916 per year. Broken down to the average $280,000 household, the share of the levy would be $56 per year, or $1.08 per week.

The current operations subsidy for the pool is approximately $100,000. However, since transfer of the pool from the county in 2004, there has been little maintenance of the facility. It is a 35-year-old building and does need repairs and upgrades. Consultants have identified $4.7 million in improvements that would need to be made over the next 10 years, thus the need for the extra revenue generated by the levy.

Language that will appear on the Nov. 3rd ballot (for DM residents) for Prop. 1 (download/view PDF file here):



Des Moines Resolution 09-095 proposes creation of the Des Moines Pool Metropolitan Park District coextensive with the City’s boundaries pursuant to 35.61 RCW, including the authority to levy a general tax on property within the District each year not to exceed twenty cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation, for the purpose of acquiring and operating a pool facility. A five- member board of commissioners, elected at large, shall govern the District.

o For the formation of a Metropolitan Park District to be governed by a five-member board of commissioners to be elected at large.

o Against the formation of a Metropolitan Park District.

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