Does Regional Aquatic Park Meet Needs of Tri-Cities? Opinions Differ
While most agree there is a need for a public aquatic park in the Tri-Cities, how to make it happen has brought out some differing opinions.
Supporters of the project, which would be built near Road 100 in Pasco, say it will attract tourism with year-round water access. It will also fill the void that has essentially been left open since the demise of the Oasis Water Park on Canal Drive in Kennewick. The indoor pools would allow for year-round use and attract swim meets and other activities. This would benefit the economic health of the region.
While several private water slide-aquatic facilities are open, the desire of the public is to have a facility that everyone can use with water slides and other related attractions.
Recently an interesting op-ed piece was published in the Tri-City Herald from former Kennewick City Council member Vic Epperly. He pointed out some different ideas for how to accomplish the aquatic idea.
While he saluted the cooperation of the three cities in creating the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District, he is not sure one facility would fill the bill.
Epperly believes the TCRPFD should attempt to raise funding to convert each of the public pools in Pasco, Richland and Kennewick into self-contained aquatic centers. Epperly points to the fact that of the 25 largest cities in our state, only Richland, Pasco and Kennewick do NOT have indoor municipal (public) pools.
With this approach, all the city park and recreation departments can extend their swim programs to run year round in each city. In addition, because a year-round pool facility would be in each school district, the school systems could also provide swim programs for students. We would all benefit. "
Epperly also calls into question some of the language contained in the plan for the regional aquatic center. According to the wording at the TCRPFD website about the center, Epperly says there's no specific language about a regional aquatic facility or water park, and the funding could spent on any of "its public facilities." Epperly says no new public pools have been built in the Tri-Cities since the 1960s despite our population nearly doubling since 1990. He also says each city has documents and studies indicating more public pool space is needed.
He also says the tax voters will be asked to approve will be "permanent." The 0.1 percent sales tax would remain in place even after the constructions bonds to build the park were paid off. He also believes such a project is more suited to the private sector.
Epperly was one of the citizens who served on the committee who wrote up the "con" statement for the August aquatic center ballot. When it comes to initiatives, levies, or other "non-office" related ballot measures, each is accompanied by "pro" and "con" statements supporting or refuting the issue.