Orchard Mesa Pool’s future hangs in the balance

The fate of the Orchard Mesa Pool, a popular community facility that has been operating since 1982, may be decided in the next few weeks. The pool, which is owned by a three-entity group consisting of Mesa County, Mesa County Valley School District 51, and the City of Grand Junction, has been facing financial and structural challenges for years. The pool’s supporters, however, are hoping to keep it open and operational for the benefit of the residents, especially the children, of Orchard Mesa.

A long-standing issue

The Orchard Mesa Pool has been a subject of debate and controversy for a long time. The pool, which is located on a 2.2 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Orchard Mesa Middle School, was built in 1982 with the help of a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The pool was intended to serve as a recreational and educational facility for the community, as well as a venue for school swimming programs and competitions.

However, over the years, the pool has faced several problems, such as aging infrastructure, high maintenance costs, low attendance, and insufficient funding. The pool’s annual budget is about $300,000, which is shared by the three entities that own it. The school district contributes $77,089, the county contributes $100,000, and the city contributes the rest. The pool also generates some revenue from fees and donations, but not enough to cover its expenses.

In 2020, the three entities considered closing the pool, citing its poor condition and financial burden. This sparked a public outcry from the pool’s supporters, who formed a grassroots group called the Save the Pool Committee. The committee collected thousands of signatures, letters, and testimonials from the community, urging the entities to keep the pool open. The committee also presented alternative solutions, such as renovating the pool, increasing the fees, or finding a new operator.

Orchard Mesa Pool’s future hangs in the balance

In response, the City of Grand Junction committed to keeping the pool open and operational until October 2026, when the new Community Recreation Center (CRC) is expected to be completed. The city also conducted a feasibility study to explore the options for renovating the pool, which estimated the cost to be between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.

A final decision

On January 22, 2024, the three entities met again to discuss the future of the pool. The school district announced that it was no longer willing to fund its portion of the pool, stating that it was “not in the pool business”. Instead, the school district offered to transfer the ownership of the pool, the gym, and the land to the City of Grand Junction, which the Save the Pool Committee agreed with.

The county reaffirmed its readiness to contribute $800,000, which could be used for either maintaining or demolishing the pool. The county also suggested that the city could use the land for other purposes, such as affordable housing or a park.

The final decision, however, rests with the city, which has to weigh the pros and cons of keeping the pool open or closing it down. The city has to consider the financial implications, the community’s needs and preferences, and the potential impacts on the environment and the neighborhood.

The city is expected to make a decision within the next few weeks, after consulting with the stakeholders and the public. The city council will hold a public hearing on February 28, 2024, where the residents of Orchard Mesa can voice their opinions and concerns. The fate of the Orchard Mesa Pool, which has been a part of the community for almost four decades, may be known by then.

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