The Friends of Rainier Pool (FORP) advocacy group is gearing up to host a benefit fundraiser in support of keeping the Briarcliff Pool open and to make certain the Rainier Columbians swim team has a home where they can practice. The event will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct.26 in the Rainier Jr/Sr High School (RJSHS) commons, located at 28168 Old Rainier Road, in Rainier.
“The success of the fundraiser will determine that our Rainier swim team will indeed be able to start practices on November 18,” FORP president Kari Olsen said.
The FORP formed in response to a challenge issued to the community to find funding for the pool by Rainier School Board member Sean Clark in June, when the board moved to adopt the district’s $14.3 million operating budget without funds to continue pool operations.
“The pool is a great asset to this community. I love the pool. I know it is important. We would love this community to rise up and make it happen,” Clark told the school board audience at a June 17 meeting.
At the time, pool supervisor Larry Cook told The Chief the annual cost to the district to operate the pool was $150,000-plus, which school board member Kari Hollander said amounted to about $205 per student per year to maintain the pool.
Olsen said the FORP is currently in negotiations with the school district to take over management of the pool in the future. During an October school board meeting, they presented a letter of intent requesting first that the pool be reopened for the swim team, and that they begin developing an agreement for the FORP to take over operations in spring or summer.
Their goal for this weekend’s fundraiser is to raise $15k-$20k, which will secure the future of the swim team for now. Beyond that, Olsen said the “baseline funds” they need to raise amounts to $100k.
“It will happen,” Olsen said of taking over management of the pool. “It’s just a matter of once we get our baseline funds in place, then we’ll be able to apply for grants and other things to make sure we have operating funds.”
The benefit will feature live and silent auctions, raffles, prizes, a dinner catered by Fultanos Pizza and musical performances from bands Revelators and Tami Tack. Some of the items set to be auctioned off include large metal wall art, pottery and a surprise piece of artwork by local artists, a sailing excursion on the Columbia River for four people, a fishing trip on the Columbia for four to include a hot breakfast.
Tickets for the benefit are $25 per individual or $40 for a couple and can be purchased on Eventbrite by searching “Friends of Rainier Pool Benefit Dinner/Auction.”
Organizers said under the management of FORP, Briarcliff Pool will be open for fitness classes, safety classes, fun swim events, and open swim. In addition, they want to continue to provide swim lessons for all students in the Rainier School District and neighboring communities.
To that end, Olsen said the group is looking to partner with the Clatskanie School District, who currently has a pool which is only opened during the summer. Olsen said there are already some students who have shown great interest in the idea, as many as 12 to 15 of them, and there may be more waiting in the wings to join up.
“This will give Clatskanie students the opportunity to be a part of a swim team and compete. It will be one team working together,” Olsen said. “It’s building community beyond our own town and really connecting the north county together.”
Those who cannot attend the benefit can still donate to the cause via Paypal, or by going into any Fibre Federal Credit Union to contribute.
“We have a very strong board that’s dedicated to making this happen,” Olsen said. “Fundraising will continue, and I have no doubt that we’ll be able to have our swim team practicing.”