A proposed partnership between the city and the Ashland Family YMCA could provide the best solution to the loss of the competition-sized swimming pool at Southern Oregon University.
SOU is renovating McNeal Pavilion, its athletic facility, with work set to start this year. The plans call for removing the university's pool and not replacing it. SOU does not offer competitive swimming as part of its intercollegiate athletics program, and student surveys revealed little support for replacing the pool.
Most of the usage of the SOU pool consists of local high school swim teams and the Rogue Valley Masters adult swimming organization. Those groups and their supporters loudly protested the loss of the SOU facility, but it's hard to justify the university spending scarce state tax money to provide a pool used mostly by non-students.
SOU was willing to partner with the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission to build a new pool, but needed the city to commit by March 1 to meet the university's budget planning schedule for the McNeal work. The timing proved a stumbling block, as well as the need for the city to contribute $2 million toward the construction cost.
The YMCA proposal would result in a pool on nearby city park property, and the Y would raise all the money on its own. That's not an easy task, but it's certainly possible here in community-minded Ashland. There is considerable support for keeping a competition-sized pool in the area, and those supporters should be willing to pitch in and help lead the fundraising effort.