(By Sam Coturri) 2012 was a banner year for supporters of a community swimming pool in Sonoma Valley. The year began with a well-attended town hall meeting and ended with the completion of a feasibility survey. In between, a small group of dedicated Sonomans resurrected a 501c3 nonprofit, Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Association, raised a small amount of money and continued to lay the groundwork to realize our collective dream.
The feasibility survey returned overwhelmingly positive results, with nearly 60 percent of respondents saying they would use a pool facility without any knowledge of what that facility might entail. A deeper look into the cross tabs of the survey reveal what many in our valley already suspected, there is overwhelming demand for a community swimming pool. As our plans solidify and we begin in earnest a public outreach campaign, we anticipate support from all corners of the valley.
For nearly a year and a half, SVHRA studied has the fiscal and political realities of Sonoma Valley with a focus on the long-term success of any project and reached some important conclusions.
While building a pool on Sonoma Valley Unified School District property remains attractive to some, any facility built on district property, including the high school, will generate less revenue and have significantly less public access, endangering lasting viability.
The needs of our Valley will be best addressed with swimming pool and athletic facility with meaningful public access. A successful facility will be open 360 days a year or more, for at least 12 hours a day with a wide range of programming. Our plan focuses on building a multi-use pool and athletic facility built with private donations on property controlled by the association. This plan focuses on building a facility that is financially sustainable and open to all.
The single most important next step is to secure a location for this facility. While we remain open to any new options, SVHRA has a “short list” that consists of county-owned property. We are currently working with Supervisor Gorin to determine the best course of action to guarantee a site.
We are frequently approached about our progress. While SVHRA’s work has been slow and deliberate, Sonoma Valley’s quest to build a community pool has lasted nearly two decades. Most of the work SVHRA has done so far has been behind the scenes, ensuring we have stable footing before we launch a full-scale public campaign. We are working hard to make sure this time we succeed and finally make the dream of a Sonoma Valley community swimming pool a reality.
Sam Coturri is treasurer of the SVHRA