By Lane Gwinn
The Times 

Prescott and Dayton working on Water Safety program

Concerned community members come together to insure water safety for kids


March 14, 2024

DAYTON/PRESCOTT —The Club, which offers after-school and out-of-school programs, is working with community stakeholders to develop a water safety component as part of its summer program. Representatives from The Friends of the Dayton Library (FDL), Dayton Hospital, Kiwanis Club, and Prescott Joint Parks and Recreation met on March 7 to discuss the program.

Club Program Director Shakira Bye told the group that there was a safety issue for kids in the community who do not have access to swim lessons. She said that until a pool is built in Dayton, kids would continue to go into the river during the summer.

Bye would like to offer water safety, swim lessons, and open swim at the Prescott’s pool for kids in The Club’s summer program. Funded by the Friends of the Dayton Library and Columbia County Public Health, kids will receive a bag containing swimsuits, lip balm, sunscreen, and other items they will need for the program, free of charge.

Doug Venn said Prescott Joint Parks and Recreation (PJPR) is negotiating with the Walla Walla YMCA to return to manage the pool this season. The YMCA would be responsible for providing lifeguards and lessons.

Considering the national and local shortages of trained lifeguards, Venn and PJPR are proactively reaching out to encourage high school students to sign up for the YMCA training and jobs at the pool. He expects three to five trained lifeguards to return this season.

One hurdle in attracting new lifeguards has been the $300 cost for lifeguard training. At the meeting, the Dayton Kiwanis Secretary Joe Huether said the club would sponsor two students for the training. Anyone interested in taking the training can sign up at age 15 but must turn 16 before they start work at the pool.

Lorna Barth, President of the Friends of the Dayton Library, said in addition to the swim bag items, the group would consider providing safety class materials, including books. The funds will come from a grant the Friends received this year from the Inatai Foundation. The Friends may use the funds in the community at its discretion.

Monte Fulbright, MT, was present representing the Columbia County Hospital District, which would offer medical and health information, including swimming-related illnesses from swimming in the local rivers.

The YMCA will provide swim lessons at the Prescott Pool for kids in The Club and the Vista Hermosa House summer programs. Bye said she would like to invite the Vista Hermosa kids to join The Club for a day at Camp Nancy Lee at the end of the six-week program. Bye said it would be an opportunity for the kids to enjoy the rich outdoor recreational areas outside of town and allow the kids to use the water safety and swimming skills they learned over the summer.

Venn said he is working to form a group, possibly with the Dayton, Waitsburg, and Prescott Parks and Recreation Districts, to combine resources in building, maintaining, and staffing public pools. The Touchet Valley Aquatic Association is his working title for the proposed collective.

The Columbia County Sheriff Department will also participate in the program.


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