MADRAS AQUATIC CENTER
2005 - Madras, Oregon
Jefferson County is bordered by four large bodies of water: Lake Billy Chinook, the Deschutes River, the Crooked River and the Metolius River. It is also crisscrossed by 60 to 100 miles of irrigation canals. During the hot summer months when temperatures soar toward the 100 degree mark, residents flock to these waters to cool off and enjoy some play time.
There have always been occasional drownings in these waters, but between 1996 and 2002, the number of drowning victims spiked. There were three apparent causes for the deaths: (1) the Lake’s deep, open water and the rivers’ and irrigation canals’ fast moving currents made them particularly dangerous, (2) there were no lifeguards to help anyone who got into trouble, and (3) those that had drowned weren’t strong swimmers.
There were no swimming lessons taught in Jefferson County except for a short period at the golf course pool. That pool was closed after a few years because of the cost of upkeep. To obtain swim skills parents had to go either to Redmond or Kah-Nee-Ta, both some 80-100 miles round trip from Madras.
The need for a community pool where residents could cool off in the summer and learn to swim at modest fees had been a topic of discussion since the 1950s. Over the years, various groups had managed to get a pool bond issue placed on the ballot, but they had all failed. The 1996 to 2002 spike in drownings restarted the conversation, and the Bean Foundation decided help meet this important community need.
The Bean Foundation joined Dr. David Evans and Dr. Carlos Kemper, both strong community advocates, to form a pool committee. Soon other partners were brought aboard—Jefferson County, Chamber of Commerce, and the Jefferson County School District 509J. The Foundation agreed to donate 3.44 prime acres for the project if the community would pass a measure to create a recreation district, a levy to operate the district and a bond issue to construct the pool. The community passed the measure, levy and bond in the fall of 2004.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana coast and led to inflated costs for building materials. That caused a shortage of funds needed to finish the pool construction and provide operational monies. Seeing the dilemma, the Bean Foundation stepped in with additional $250,000 to finish the construction of the pool.
Over the next ten years, the Bean Foundation provided additional funds totaling $557,350 to help cover operational costs and help create out-of-water recreational activities for local residents.
Today the Madras Aquatic Center is one of the counties busiest recreation venues. It features three a six-lane competition pool, a lazing river, and leisure pool. Also offering many out-of-water programs for youth recreation.