When council member David Marshall moved to La Crosse, he came straight from a deployment with the U.S. Army to Afghanistan
He remembers being drained, physically, emotionally and mentally as he transitioned back into daily life state-side.
“The first respite I ever felt when I came back was going underwater,” Marshall said.
That peaceful feeling of going swimming was important to him, which is why Marshall was pleased to sponsor a resolution going to the La Crosse Common Council in April to allow veterans and their families free access to Veterans Memorial Pool once the $3.14 million renovation is complete this summer.
The pool, located at 1901 Campbell Road, will include a memorial outside, but Marshall, as well as La Crosse’s interim parks director Jay Odegaard, thought it was important to give an extra token of thanks.
“When we were going through the process, a number of us were talking about how we can make this a really special experience for veterans and their families,” Marshall said.
Waiving the $2 fee will help turn the pool, which has been a staple of the Grandview Emerson neighborhood since 1938, into a living memorial to U.S. veterans.
“A living memorial is a pool and people come. Sometimes people forget why it was named what it was named,” Marshall said.
The city already offers active military members and the family members of deployed service members free entrance to parks department programs, Odegaard said, so it shouldn’t be too complicated to extend that to veterans at the pool.
“It’s a good thing, and at the end of the day, the revenue we miss out on is far less significant than providing those people and families that positive impact of being able to come and enjoy the recreational activities,” Odegaard said.
They’ll be able to come by starting this summer, although the project won’t quite be ready by the first week of June as the staff members originally hoped.
“But obviously we’ve had a pretty rough winter, especially for building outdoors. It’s still the definite intent to be open this year,” Odegaard said.
Meanwhile, the Veterans Memorial Pool Community Campaign is doing well, according to campaign member Jacob Sciammas.
It has raised more than $315,000 of its $500,000 goal and has community events like a gathering at the Castle on Cass and a block party at the business on Campbell Road across from the pool coming up this spring to raise money.
“We’re building community and we’re having fun while we’re doing it,” Sciammas said.
He was excited about the council considering waiving the fees for veterans.
“From the beginning, the campaign has felt like it’s important, that it’s not just a veterans memorial at the pool, but throughout the project,” Sciammas said.
From the group’s perspective, waiving the fees really fits into the mission of the community pool.
“Even in the things we’re doing for the pool, we’re continually looking for how veterans have a unique place in the facility,” Sciammas said.
For example, Sciammas is working with the contractors and city staff to talk about concepts for the memorial and bringing in symbols like poppies and water through both representation and color schemes to speak to veterans’ traditions.
“It’s a really fun time right now because the contractors and the city have been very cooperative and welcoming the community campaign’s involvement,” Sciammas said.
Visit memorialpool.org or call 608-492-4392 for more information on the community campaign.
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