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At their work session on April 17, the Salida City Council (SCC) heard a presentation from Salida Soak & Swim, a group lobbying for an outdoor community and soaking pool on the grounds of the existing Aquatic Center in Centennial Park.

At the beginning of the session, Salida Parks and Recreation Director Diesel Post gave a brief rundown on the history of getting an outdoor pool going in Salida,

“The staff has a strategy for funding outdoor pools, but we’re talking years down the road – 2026 or 2027,” concluded Post. “And we have a great group of people here tonight with some new funding ideas, as well as an industry expert on hot springs pools.”

Committee spokesperson Wendy Gorie introduced herself and other members of Salida Soak & Swim before moving on to the presentation.

“Our mission is to partner with the city to expand the hot springs swimming facility,” she explained. “Why an outdoor pool? We have 100 gallons per minute of excess, 117-degree heated water [at the Aquatic Center], which goes directly back into the river. This would be a complete hot springs facility. Surveys going back to 1992 are showing that people want it. There have been five [pool] renditions since 2012. The City has kept a line item in its budget [for an outdoor pool].”

“The number of users is up dramatically,” Gorie continued. “Activities are beginning to conflict. The pool turns away visitors during peak hours. We don’t have accurate pool user numbers because we are turning people away. Why Centennial Park? The piping is already there. The master plan has had an outdoor facility for a while – it’s the logical place to have it. It’s within biking and walking distance for almost everyone in Salida; and its location [on Hwy 50] attracts visitors and tourists.”

Gorie went through the results of a community survey that her group had conducted, both online through their Facebook page and website, and hard copy surveys at the Aquatic Center and the Home and Garden show: “88 percent of respondents want both a community pool and soaking pool,” she reported. “A total of 98 percent want some form of outdoor pool.”

After going through some sketches for possibilities that the group had drawn up with the assistance of a design consultant, Gorie concluded her presentation with an ask that the SCC consider putting up to $10,000 in city funds for a pool design; and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Salida Soak & Swim so that its fiscal agent, SPOT (Salida-area Parks, Open Space, and Trails) might qualify the group for grant applications.

Proposed Outdoor Pool plan showing a single large soaking pool. Image courtesy of Salida Soak & Swim

Mayor Dan Shore led a discussion with Gorie and (on-line) with Steve Beckley, the designer of the Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, on specifics for the plans as presented. The city staff advised caution going forward, citing both previous plans and dramatic cost increases since those plans had been developed and last presented.

Speaking to earlier conceptual plans, “There’s an estimate out on a five-[soaking] pool plan,” said Parks Department staffer Dave Daley: “There is all that engineering ready to go. We could also revamp the entire idea and start from Square One … I know a lot about the project that is already engineered.”

Treasurer Merrell Bergin pointed out that the $10,000 ask would be an unfunded item in the 2023 city budget.

“We don’t need to make a decision about this now,” said City Administrator Drew Nelson: “We can wait until the [Council] retreat, when annual priorities are established.” The council retreat has yet to be scheduled and typically is sometime in May.

“Any idea how much we have spent on engineering so far?” council member Alisa Pappenfort asked.

“About $60,000,” Post replied: “This project has been around for about 30 years.”

The complete proceedings of the work session are contained in the City YouTube channel, available here (the recording begins at approximately the 43-minute mark.