MYRTLE CREEK — The South Umpqua Memorial Pool’s capacity was maxed out in the first hour of opening day Saturday.
Pool Manager Joshua Norton said it’s called the South Umpqua Memorial Pool because it was built in memory of the many people who drowned in the South Umpqua River in the late 1950s and 1960s.
It was built by local business owners in the Myrtle Creek Lions Club as a safer place to swim.
“They built it. They didn’t hire a contractor, but they actually put the time and effort into it, and they built it and they donated it to the city, which is so exciting,” Norton said.
After an equipment failure in 2010, the pool was saved from closing by the Friends of the Pool Task Force, which set out to raise $30,000 to keep the pool open, Norton said. Since its founding, the Friends of the Pool have raised more than $150,000. They’ve put in new slides, redone the deck and fixed the equipment. Then they lowered the price of admission from $3 to $1. Norton has worked at the pool for 14 years and been the manager for 12.
“Back in the day, a busy day was 35 to 40 people. Now a busy day is 100 maxed out with a line of 20 people out front, and we’re very very happy about that. This is the safe place that our community deserves, and we are so happy to be able to facilitate that,” he said.
“This is my most favorite place in the whole world,” he said.
It also appeared to be the favorite place of Willow Basham, who’s nearly 2. She lit up like a firefly when she looked through the open doorway and realized where she was.
“Oh. Oh. Oh!” she said, waving her arms excitedly. “Swimming! Oh, oh, oh!”
Willow was brought to the pool by her parents Tyler Basham and Emily Rand.
“She’s a water worm,” Rand said of her daughter.
Tyler Basham said the family moved from Indiana to Myrtle Creek last October, and it’s nice to find something as fun for a kid as this community pool. Too often, he said, they wind up driving to Roseburg to find something to do.
“We’ll be here probably just about every day in the summer,” he said.
About 35 people at the pool mid-afternoon Saturday were there for the birthday party of twins Havanna and Haedon Benn, 12. Their mother, Jennifer Benn of Tri City, sat on the deck with Tiffinnie Jandura of Riddle and Jandura’s daughter Jeweliet Gomez, 6.
“Who wouldn’t want to be here on the first day opening of a pool?” Jennifer Benn said.
“It’s nice. I remember coming here when I was a kid,” Jandura said. She said it’s even nicer now with the water slides.
Jeweliet said she doesn’t care for the two slides — unless someone catches her at the bottom, that is — but she loves to play water games like Marco Polo.
Havanna said it’s really fun to swim with friends she hasn’t seen in awhile. She loves the slides, the diving board and the deep end of the pool.
“If I couldn’t come here, I would probably buy a pool,” she said.