Planning a Future for Public Pool Access in Snoqualmie Valley

[Letter by Kate Leen and Linda Grez, co-founders, Valley Pool Together. Views expressed are those of the authors, not the Living Snoqualmie website. You may submit letters to the editor or opinion posts to]

In the 1960s, regional leader Jim Ellis asked community members to optimistically envision and help create a liveable area for the future. The initiatives put together by this committee and passed in 1968 and 1970 became known as the Forward Thrust bond initiatives. They funded many area infrastructure projects and set aside open space for parks and natural areas ahead of growth. They also funded the construction of area public pools in the 1970s and financed their operation for decades to come. Si View Pool, although built earlier, became a part of this legacy through King County Parks.  

In the early 2000s, King County faced a budget crisis. Despite residents’ objections, the county closed or transferred these pools. Many cities, school districts, and newly formed special purpose districts like Si View Metropolitan Parks District stepped up to take over their operation. Now, many of those pools are past their 50th birthdays and showing their age. The smaller municipalities that summoned the funds two decades ago to keep them running do not have the funds or a broad enough tax base to renovate or rebuild something their communities need. Several have closed, and more will in the future.

The decline in public pools has dangerous consequences. Nationwide, 79% of children in households with incomes less than $50,000 cannot swim. According to King County Public Health, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 in King County. In 2022, there were 29 preventable drownings in the county, nearly twice the number as those in 2018. Public pools provide equitable access to safer places to swim and swim lessons, two important ways to combat these alarming statistics. Not having access to them is having a negative impact.

We need to plan to replace aging pools and ensure equitable access for an increased population.  Si View Pool, built in 1938 as a CCC project for a town of 600 people, is approaching its 86th birthday and is the oldest pool in the state still in operation. While it has served our community well, it is now much too small for our current population and is facing serious maintenance issues. Three bonds to replace it have received between 56% and 58% approval each time but not the state-required 60% supermajority. In Snoqualmie, plans to build a YMCA pool are pending but money to fully fund the project has not materialized. Residents are also questioning the use of public funds (and possibly city debt) to build a membership-based pool. Meanwhile, the school district needs facilities for swim and dive teams, special education students, and the many SVSD students without access to swim lessons.  

It’s becoming clear: no individual city or municipality can meet this need independently, despite trying. The last time partnership was explored was in 2019. Much has changed since then. Population has grown. Construction costs have soared. Key leadership has changed. We had a little pandemic. And Si View and Snoqualmie now have five years of experience trying but failing to meet the need alone. 

It’s time for our Valley community to come together to create a new public pool that is open to all and supported by both cities, Si View MPD, and other government bodies. The broader tax base of an area like the entire upper Valley makes a public pool more affordable for all.  

What exactly would a regional partnership look like? That is ultimately up to elected officials and voters, but we have a few ideas to get everyone started:

  • King County Aquatic Grants, funded by the 2019 Parks Levy, will open applications again early next year. Cities, school districts, and park districts can apply separately for grants of up to 5 million dollars, potentially increasing total funding for the project. Grants would bring residents’ tax money back to the Valley. Otherwise, that money goes somewhere else.
  • The SVSD School District can include a pool in their capital facilities plan and a future bond. A great example of this mutually beneficial model comes from the Snohomish School District. In 2014, they used capital bond funds to build an independent facility with a recreation pool and a separate competition pool with a 1-meter board in the deep end, all high school athletes need to practice and compete. The city pays for water and sewer. All city residents get discounted passes, and seniors get free access. Best of all, every single second grader in the school district gets free swim lessons. They have been successfully running the facility on budget for a decade now. It’s a wonderful way to give back to the community that has generously passed the school bonds they need, especially seniors.   
  • There are a variety of ways cities could work together to contribute.  They could agree on a one-time capital contribution, they could arrange bond funding, they could evaluate expanding Si View MPD to include their area in their boundaries.  City of Snoqualmie residents are not currently Si View members but make up 45% of participants in Si View programs, and most are paying out-of-district fees and no longer have priority access to swim lessons.   
  • Other public and private partnerships may materialize as the plan takes shape. Snoqualmie Valley Hospital and other area health providers, the Snoqualmie Tribe, Encompass, Fall City MPD, cities of Carnation and Duvall, area business owners, and others may want to contribute to capital or operational costs while serving their residents, customers, or members. Many of these organizations also have access to additional grants or private funding. 
  • Valley residents can contact their elected state and county representatives and let them know that aquatic access is a public health and safety issue that matters to them. Small cities in areas like ours have fewer resources, and we need more support at the county and state levels.

Our pools were not built by small communities acting alone. They cannot be replaced that way now. A regional public pool would serve all our community members equitably, mitigate the impact on taxpayers, enable area children to receive life-saving swim instruction regardless of income, provide an adequate facility for the school district, and strengthen our community ties across city boundaries. Our elected leaders need to listen to the voice of the community and reach across city borders to better serve the needs of the Valley we all share. Let them know you want them to pursue this goal by signing our petition on our Facebook page here. Together, we can build something remarkable for our community and future generations in the Valley.   

Elected representatives and stakeholders you can contact:

Comments are closed.


  • This is a well stated argument. The need for a public (not membership-based), centrally located pool in the Snoqualmie Valley is clear. The current elected officials of North Bend and Snoqualmie, the school district, and the parts districts must come together and come up with a plan that will provide aquatic access for everyone — not simply the ultra wealthy with the resources to pay for expensive memberships.

  • Thank you, Kate and Linda, for championing this effort to bring an adequate regional pool to our Valley to meet many citizens’ needs for aquatic uses. Absolutely partnerships and collaboration amongst agencies and taxpayers is key and would bring costs down for all Valley residents and participants. Beyond providing swim lessons for kids, and equally valuable, are the opportunities for aqua therapy for us aging and/or active adults. Also, that community is built and strengthened within pool walls. Parents and families commune on the sidelines, and regular pool participants form friendships that go beyond the aerobics class–coffee klatches, rides to appointments, check-ins and more. Finally, is the value of a larger facility offering multi/concurrent programming–i.e,a parent or grandparent lap swimming or walking against a current while their child is in swim lessons. Diving, lap swim, aerobics and lessons can all be going on, serving many and meeting many’s needs. Expanded aquatics continues to be valued highly in community surveys, also evidenced by a high majority of “yes” bond voters. Let’s join together to make this happen!

  • Great points in this letter. A regional pool between Snoqualmie and North Bend that the two cities, the Si View MPD, the School District, and King County cooperated in establishing and operating (with State support), would be a boon to the whole Valley!

  • Great article with lots of research behind it. (I’ve been a resident for almost 35 years and did not know all the history behind the various movements to build public amenities.)

    I hope that the local and regional government entities can come together to create a plan that will result in a public pool facility that is available at low- or no-cost to valley residents. Children in this area of free-flowing rivers especially need to have basic swimming skills. Back in the day when the main town was on the north side of the river, the community not only had a community pool but also a lively, inclusive group of interested parties to make sure that all Valley children learned how to swim and had an opportunity for swimming throughout the year. And with our aging population, a place for seniors to exercise and stretch their bodies in an aquatic environment is especially needed.

  • Living Snoqualmie