The group of Sonoma residents looking to build a community pool in city limits may be one step closer to taking that first swim.
Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Association (SVHRA), a nonprofit comprised of Valley residents (including those in the former Citizens United for a Sonoma Pool) who want to bring a public pool to Sonoma, has had four donors step forward with seed money and pledges for the $7-million-plus project, said group treasurer Sam Coturri.
The charter members of the fundraising group, according to Coturri, are Hamel Family Wines owners Pam and George Hamel, Repris Wines owner Jim Momtazee, and screenwriter and owner of Kamen Estate Wines Robert Mark Kamen. “This core group will be the cornerstone of our fundraising,” Coturri said.
A Sonoma native, Coturri remembers swimming at the high school pool and seeing his mom, who is a local swim instructor, fight to bring a community pool to Sonoma for the last 20 years. “Every community needs to have access to and the opportunity to learn to swim, so people can stay active and healthy, have fun and make friends,” said Coturri, adding that after two years of working on bringing a pool to Sonoma, it seems like the project finally has enough momentum.
The group made a splash at the Vintage Festival parade on its bubbly blue float, created with Illusions Lighting and as one of the festival’s beneficiaries. In an effort to show the community the group is ready to begin building a pool, SVHRA launched its new brand campaign, Sonoma Splash. In June 2013, the United States Swimming Association selected SVHRA for an in-house “Build-a-Pool” conference, at which it counseled attendees on how to build an economically sustainable and beneficial facility. Shortly thereafter, former Olympic swimmer, American record holder for breaststroke and Index-Tribune Food and Wine Editor Kathleen Hill joined SVHRA’s board.
The group’s board, which consists of well-known community members, including Mayor Ken Brown and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Rouse, is set on the goal of building a community access pool to provide swimming instruction and swim lessons to Sonomans, especially those in underserved and at-risk populations.
In early 2012, SVHRA had plans to build the pool at the corner of Broadway and MacArthur (where Sonoma Truck and Auto Center is), but pool group members decided the property was too expensive for their project and decided to look elsewhere.
Brown, who is SVHRA’s board director, says he was never happy with the pool at SVHS and he and the nonprofit group feel a pool closer to the center of town – closer to the majority of Sonoma’s at-risk families – is key to fulfilling SVHRA’s mission. “This pool is one of the City Council’s top 10 goals,” Brown said.
The ideal spot, the group decided, is closer to the center of Sonoma Valley – near Highway 12 and Verano Avenue. “Our ground zero is Maxwell Park,” says SVHRA board President Paul Favaro.
However, with the park’s master plan currently in the beginning stages of a comprehensive revision, the group realized that it might not even get the green light to build from the county until at least mid-2015.