“Less is more.”
That short but powerful phrase was a favorite of 20th century architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He often used it to describe his minimalist approach to designing buildings in which he emphasized open space and simplicity.
Well, a group of citizens — led by downtown merchant Anne North-Jones — is pushing a plan built on its simplicity. It wants the community to rebuild Memorial Pool, which was drained half a dozen years ago because it was costing the city of Walla Walla too much to operate and attendance had dwindled.
This, of course, is not the first effort to replace Memorial Pool with a public water park and pool for summer recreation.
It is, however, the first try at using only grants and donations, rather than voter-approved public funding, to build a public pool
Three times in the past decade — 2003, 2006 and 2012 — proposals to build a community water park have been rejected by voters because many apparently believed wave pools and lazy rivers were simply too much. Instead they said — over and over — all they simply want a plain swimming pool.
So that’s what this group, calling itself Rebuild Memorial Pool (memorialpool.org), is offering.
It’s an excellent approach and the group appears to have a solid plan.
In the past, the idea of a pool only has been rejected because stand-alone pools are not particularly popular today. Water parks with huge slides, lazy rivers and simulated surfing are the rage. They are also expensive to operate and to get into. Some of the parks start at about $5 and can hit $35 or more, even for kids.
And while it is true water parks have supplanted pools in most communities, Walla Walla isn’t most communities.
That’s why the Rebuild Memorial Pool plan just might work. It seeks to raise $1.5 million from private sources to build an Olympic-size pool by next summer at the Memorial Pool site.
The group is looking to continue to raise funds — $3 million to $4 million is the goal — after the Olympic-sized pool is built with the idea of expanding and adding other amenities.
This, too, is what voters have said they wanted in the wake of the three water park defeats.
If those voters mean what they have said, a new Memorial Pool could be open by next summer.
But this time people won’t be voting with ballots but with their wallets.
This is a solid, albeit ambitious, plan. We hope it succeeds. A public pool is needed in Walla Walla.