More than 6,000 individuals have signed the online petition calling for the continued operation of the Kan Pacific Swimming Pool.
As of 7pm yesterday, 6,450 have supported the campaign that urges the government to take actions that would prevent the closure of the only Olympic-sized pool in the CNMI. Kan Pacific, which has been in charged of the facility since 1987, will stop operating the Marpi pool on Sept. 30, as its extension of lease agreement with the Department of Public Lands will also expire at the end of this month.
Signatories for the petition that Tsunami Swimming Center Saipan’s Hiroko Tenorio spearheaded came both from off and on-island individuals and groups and even non-swimmers. Palau Swimming Association, which in the past several years has been sending swimmers to Saipan to compete, was among the supporters of the campaign that aims to keep the 50-meter pool open.
“It is beyond sad to hear that one of the very few competition pools in all of Micronesia, is slated to shutdown at the end of this month. The Kan Pacific pool is the only 50-m pool in Saipan, which has hosted numerous international meets, Micronesian Games, and annual school swimming championships, and a location for the hundreds of kids who have gone through swim lessons and swim team in the pool’s many years,” Palau coach Billy Brown posted on the group’s Facebook page.
“Personally, we go up with all of our team every March and train and race with both Saipan Swim Club and Tsunami Saipan, and other Micronesian teams from Guam, Marshall Islands, and Pohnpei. We have had many great practices, races, and even a water polo game in the pool, and have met many of our best friends we have today on that deck. What can we do to help? The best thing we can do at this point is to beg the government to keep this important facility going, as it is such a crucial resource and safe gathering place for the youth of Saipan. So, let’s show our support and sign the pledge to help keep Kan Pacific, and the local swim teams afloat,” he added.
Dolphin Club Saipan, the third and newest local swim group in the CNMI, also raised its concerns over the looming closure of the facility.
“Kan Pacific has generously allowed Dolphin Club Saipan (the swim program of 500 Sails) to use the pool to provide the public with free adult swim classes on Saturdays. This has been ongoing since early 2017. This represents over 1,000 individual learning hours. We have over 400 swimmers, with a comparatively high percentage of indigenous locals. It has been one of the greatest joys in my life to help Saipan adults learn to swim,” DCS official Emma Perez said.
“Most of these swimmers do not come to us as athletes, but as individuals who want to be healthier. I do not know the solution to the problem of closing the pool, but I hope that this can be avoided and support the need for a pool for our community (all ages). Too many people have drowned already, simply because they don’t know how to swim,” she added.
Brad Ruszala, another signatory of the petition, shared Perez’s concern on water safety.
“My children began taking lessons in the same pool last year and they’ve learned a skill under the watchful eyes of their volunteer coaches. Water safety was our primary concern for enrolling our children in swim classes. Now that they’ve mastered the basics, they have the opportunity to hone their skills and follow the same traditions established in the same swim lanes of the CNMI’s only regulation-sized pool,” said Ruszala, who also used the pool when he was still active in triathlon.
“The loss of this pool would devastate the CNMI’s swimming program. Our leaders foresaw the importance of the pool 40 years ago when they put a provision into the Kan Pacific public land lease that mandated the creation and maintenance of a public pool. It would be a shame if the shortsightedness of the stewards of our public lands allow the children of our Commonwealth to lose the only facility of its kind in our islands today,” he said.
Two more signatories, Suzy Kindel and Nicky Nichols, discussed how the community is benefitting from the pool.
“Bill and Jeanne Sakovich created an enduring legacy (in swimming) for our island, and this pool has proven to be a tremendous benefit to our island’s children. It would be a travesty if our gov’t doesn’t act to save the pool,” Nichols said.
“I have used this pool for 29 years. Saipan is so lucky to have a 50-meter pool as those who have moved back to the states can tell you since usually all that is available for workouts stateside are short course/25-meter pools. The beauty surrounding our pool makes a workout so peaceful and enjoyable,” Kindel added.
Torres meeting with DPL
Meanwhile, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres told reporters on Capitol Hill that he was scheduled to meet with DPL yesterday afternoon to discuss the issues on the pool.
He admitted he knew about the online petition circulating and will talk to DPL to see what they can do after the Sept. 30 closure. Torres also mentioned the options that could keep the pool open. These include DPL taking over the management and hiring the same people who work at the pool, getting a new management company, and hiring a security to protect the property. (With reports from Jon Perez)