What’s better than swimming in the city pool on a hot Saturday evening? Swimming there for free.
On any other day, it would have cost Megan Geiger and her partner Branden Treadaway $20.50 to take their two children and a nephew to the Forest Grove Aquatic Center — $28 if they lived outside city limits. But last Saturday, June 20, it didn’t cost them a thing.
Thanks to a sponsorship provided by Papa’s Toys and the Susan Davis family, the Aquatic Center started its free swim nights this past weekend, drawing more than 100 people. Nine more free swims will be offered, every Saturday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. through Aug. 29, excluding the July 4 holiday.
“We’re full steam ahead,” said Aquatic Supervisor Sherrie Mead.
“The pool is good family fun,” said Geiger, a Forest Grove native whose family showed up early enough to nab the first spot in line. “I’ve been coming here since I was little and I want my kids to have the same joy.”
After 20 years of swimming at the Forest Grove pool, Geiger said it’s worth an hour-long wait in the grass just to ensure they make it inside. For safety reasons, the Aquatic Center only allows the first 200 people into the pool. The first free swim of 2014 saw 173 swimmers, while others reached the pool’s 200-person maximum. In those cases, would-be swimmers either leave disappointed or wait around hoping to enter the pool as other swimmers leave.
In June 2014, the Aquatic Center had 10,525 visits. As a result of unusually high early-summer temperatures, Parks & Recreation Director Tom Gamble expects this year’s numbers to be even higher — perhaps high enough to break attendance and revenue records for the month of June.
This coming weekend, when temperatures are forecast to rise above 100 degrees, could push those numbers over the top.
Swimmers who can’t fit in the pool will likely seek refuge in nearby Hagg Lake, the site of a devastating tragedy last summer when four family members — all non-swimmers — drowned together while wading near an unexpected drop-off.
Gamble thinks the memory of that event might increase parents’ interest in enrolling children in swimming lessons this summer.
“Anytime there’s an incident with people doing less than safe things at rivers and lakes,” he said, “there’s always an increase in attendance at the facilities.”
Indeed, Mead has seen an increase in both the number and rate of swim-lesson signups, with classes filling up faster than usual.
She has also heard from water-safety groups across the state who report a similar increase in swimming students and say that many of those who sign up — or sign their children up — specifically refer to the Hagg Lake tragedy.
While swim lessons aren’t free, people can save money on them through memberships, which offer price discounts to members. A special three-month summer membership that covers June through August will be prorated as of June 29 for those who didn’t buy it at the beginning of the month.
Information on prices and schedules for classes and open swims is online at forestgrove-or.gov.