Mission Valley Aquatics Center opened in May after 10 years of fundraising.
Mission Valley Aquatics Center opened in May after 10 years of fundraising.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous. Polson, Mont. has an amazing aquatics facility. Eight lanes, 25 yards, four to 12 feet deep, water maintained at an inviting 78 degrees, and separate warm water therapy pool to boot … it’s a beaut.

Growing up in Polson, I didn't have an indoor community swimming pool to retreat to during those miserable winter months. I had a lake. When it wasn't frozen, it was infested with a nasty bacterium that caused a wicked rash to breakout all over your body.  (And I do mean all over.)

But the dreaded “swimmer’s itch” was the least of our worries back then. In addition to harboring monster-size fish (and, some say, an actual monster) Flathead Lake posed a serious threat to anyone whose swimming skills were less than adequate. At 30 miles long and 16 miles wide, Flathead Lake is the largest body of freshwater west of the Mississippi River. Seldom had a summer gone by when it didn't claim a life; a child out of his depth or a boater tossed overboard by wind-whipped waters. Whatever the case, the message was clear: Flathead Lake was not to be trifled with. And in a town of 4,000, one death doesn't create ripples. It creates waves.

After college, I came back to Polson to be a staff writer at The Lake County Leader. I reported on more than one drowning during my two years there. I also reported on the community’s efforts to raise the capital to build a $7 million dollar year-round swimming pool.

Some dismissed the idea as a pipe dream. Raising millions of dollars from a mostly cash-strapped community? Good luck with that! Some just didn't see the logic. Why do we need a pool? We have a lake for cryin’ out loud! Advocates countered, smartly, that it was because of the lake that we needed a pool. A safe, controlled environment where people could learn to swim might limit the risk of drowning when they take to the lake for summer fun.

Fortunately, the naysayers were in the minority. After 10 years of campaigning, the Mission Valley Aquatics Center opened on Monday, May 20. Coincidentally, that’s the same week I started my new job at Pool & Spa News. In my professional opinion, you've got yourselves a top-notch swim center, Polson!

And because I know the aquatics community is pretty darn generous, I’m going to link to MVAC’s fundraising page

. Donations help keep this project afloat.