Plans moving ahead for fitness center at Forks pool

Lap Pool
Chris Cook - Forks Forum photo
The lap pool in the Forks Aquatic Center pictured in September. The lap pool is scheduled to be refilled with water within a few weeks and in use later this year.

A fitness center operator has been found for the Forks Aquatic Center, and within several weeks the lap pools at the center will once again be filled with water.

Quillayute Valley Parks and Recreation Board Chair Nedra Reed told the Forks Forum that Ruby Swagerty from Three Rivers Resort is expected to sign a contract to be manager of the fitness center.

“There’s such a need in this community for activities for kids, for adults, so many need to think about fitness,” Reed said Monday, Oct. 17. “We’re really looking forward to it. We hope it becomes a family-centered facility.”

Reed said revenue is needed from the fitness center to help fund the ongoing costs of reopening the lap pools in the aquatic center, and for utilities, insurance and other ongoing costs of the aquatic center.
“This is a good example of a public-private partnership which will serve the community well,” Reed said, that will “take a building in mothballs, and gradually deteriorating for a number of years, and turn it into a usable facility for the community.”

Reed, Don Grafstrom and other QVPR boardmembers have worked for over a year on reopening the shuttered Forks Aquatic Center.

The pool opened in 2005, but was closed in 2007 due to the high cost of heating the pool and a lower then expected flow of revenue from pool users. Votes who earlier approved a $2.9 million bond issue to build the facility voted down a tax levy plan in 2006 that would have funded operational costs.

Discussions on plans to reopen the pool building have been held since the closing to put the building back into operation, but the QVPRB plan is the first to move ahead with actual reopening work. Members of the board led by Sandra Carter and Debbie Anderson did ongoing fundraising to float the cost of insurance and utilities, plus to pay off a sizable propane bill, in the interim.

Swagerty, who previously ran the Forks Athletic Center and currently works with the Quileute Tribe on community fitness programs, told the Forks Forum that the center should be open in the near future.
“There’s excitement in the air, people are pumped up,” she said of the response to the news from the community.

The fitness center will have three main areas of operation, and some sections will be open 24 hours, seven days a week, she said. She has gathered a team of family and friends to run the fitness facility, with her sister Donna Ingram and friend Kathy Potter taking lead roles.

Anybody interested in helping us out is welcome to join in, Swagerty said.

Over the summer contractor Alder Grove Construction of Port Angeles worked installing a removable thin concrete floor over about half of the pool in the aquatic center. Lightweight styrofoam was placed inside the pool to brace the concrete floor. Some $100,000 has been spent on the remodel and refitting. The money came from a construction fund that has been in the QVPRB account since the construction of the aquatic center using public bond funds.

Jerry Schlie Design, Inc. of Beaver provided architectural services for the project.

Reed said a variety of exercise machines will be placed atop the concrete floor, with treadmill and other machines already at the center, donated by the Sequim aquatic center. This area will be open to members 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a locking mechanism for members to use for entry.
In this area, Swagerty said, various exercise machines and equipment will be located.

The contractors have placed a 29-foot-high wall between the exercise machine area and the aquatic center’s lap pool, which will be refilled with water and reopened. Swagerty said instructors are already being trained and receiving lifeguard and other certificates in Port Angeles and elsewhere. Swimming lessons and senior exercise groups will be among the users of the lap pool.

Dan Richards of Aqua Services in Seattle, the man whose firm “mothballed” the pool in 2006, is scheduled to come out to Forks to refill the lap pools. Reed said Richards is confident the lap pool will be in good shape and ready to reopen.

The third area is a large meeting room area of the Forks Community Center. In this room non-machine exercise classes are to be held. Swagerty said a wood floor will be laid in the room to provide a solid surface for the classes. She said the room will also be available for community meetings.

Swagerty said she is open to suggestions from the community regarding programs to be run at the fitness center. She ran the Forks Athletic Club out of the former Jim’ Gym building on Sportsman’s Club Road until about 2000. Swagerty currently provides fitness training for the Quileute Tribe, working with persons with diabetes and other health concerns. She has also taught a cancer survivors class working with the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and with Olympic Memorial Hospital in Port Angeles. She holds a number of fitness training certificates including some issued by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Other amenities planned include a juice bar and on-site wifi service, and healthy cooking classes that would be held in the dining area of the Forks Community Center.

She said the cost per month will be reasonable. Once an opening date is determined, she plans to present a limited offer of an annual, comprehensive fee of about $300-$325 per person. A discounted family membership plan will also be available for families from one household.

Up until  August plans called for Charlotte Wedrick, manager of the Health First Fitness Center in Forks, to be the operator of the Forks Aquatic Center-based fitness center.

However, in a letter sent to the board in mid-August Wedrick announced she was backing out of moving her fitness operation to the Forks Aquatic Center. Wedrick had announced her plans at public QVPRD meetings held in 2010 and reached a draft agreement with the QVPRB in April. The draft agreement had a clause that allowed her to end the agreement within a 90-day period.

Wedrick said in the letter she decided to forego the move to the aquatic center because “changes in the retrofit project have created serious design limitations that pose a high risk to the business/revenue model…” she proposed. She also cited not having access to the meeting room inside the adjoining Forks Community Center, and the offices in the center, the cost of liability insurance being too high due to the lap pool lanes being open, no tanning beds or sauna space in the remodel and retention of the pool slide in the aquatic center building.

At the Oct. 12 meeting of the Forks Chamber of Commerce Wedrick said she currently has 60 students enrolled in her popular Biggest Loser weight loss and fitness program, and that her weight-loss and fitness programs are doing well.

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