Meeting set Aug. 13 for YMCA to explore options in Nevada County
For the first time in at least a decade, YMCA is exploring options for developing programs and perhaps even facilities in western Nevada County.
“The city is happy that the YMCA is interested in us, because they can bring in a lot of things that the city is lacking at this time,” said Tim Kiser, Grass Valley public works director, who is helping coordinate the YMCA’s local explorations. Kiser said while Grass Valley is spearheading the effort, it’s understood that the need is countywide.
“I think every jurisdiction (in Nevada County) would say, ‘We are all short of facilities,’” Kiser said. “Every new opportunity would benefit the community as a whole.”
A public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Memorial Park Clubhouse, 400 Memorial Lane in Grass Valley, behind the Memorial Park pool and tennis courts.
Local swimming groups that use the pool are leading the push – although the YMCA could conceivably bring in a lot more in programs than just swimming.
“We’re willing to sit down and talk to anyone about programming for kids, families and the community,” said Jay Lowden, CEO of YMCA of Superior California, who said he expects to attend the meeting.
“They (the swimmers) can consider us as a potential partner” in any proposals they want to offer to the city to upgrade swimming programs, Lowden added.
Chuck Scimeca, a leader of the early-morning masters swim program at Memorial Park pool, said his group is looking to strengthen the program – which has gone through several management changes in recent years – and to open up more adult lap swimming times. Currently, the masters swim time is only from 5:30 to 7 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 6:30 to 8 a.m. Saturdays.
The rest of the time, the pool is used by youth swim leagues, open swim or lessons.
“We don’t care who runs the pool,” Scimeca said. “We just want to be able to have a more consistent program, with more lap swimming available for all the seniors in the community who might benefit from more lap times.”
Kiser said the Grass Valley pool, which is the only year-round public swimming pool in western Nevada County, is currently operated by Northern Sierra Aquatics, a group with a head coach based at Bear River High School, under contract with the city of Grass Valley.
In exchange for using the pool for its youth swim team practices, Northern Sierra Aquatics hosts an open swim time and swimming lessons in the summer, Kiser said. The Bear River group also provides lifeguards for the various swim activities, including the masters swim program.
“I think a lot of people, including Northern Sierra Aquatics, would like us to build a new aquatic center,” Kiser said.
Besides the Grass Valley pool, the only other public pool in western Nevada County is in Nevada City, which is closed in the winter, and at the two high schools, Nevada Union and Bear River, both of which have only limited community access.
“I think with our parks in general, people want more – whether it’s swimming, soccer, tennis or pickleball,” Kiser said. “We do have a lot of park space, but there are still a lot of unmet needs.”
Scimeca said he wants swimmers and other members of the public to talk to YMCA officials about possibilities ranging from the YMCA taking over the Memorial Park pool and clubhouse to building an aquatic center for western Nevada County.
“We’ve been trying to do something for years,” Scimeca said. “We would love to have a full-blown aquatic center.”
Lowden said the YMCA was “a long way from saying it’s (aquatic center) a go,” but that the strong community support in western Nevada County so far was a good first step. In particular, the success of a recent pilot summer camp run by Gold Country YMCA at Memorial Park was a positive indicator, Lowden said.
“We’re quite a ways away from that (building new aquatic center),” he said. “To do that requires an active community program of charitable giving and raising money.”
However, he said many communities are able to have YMCA programs without building any new facilities.
“I’ve worked at three different YMCAs, and all three were different,” he said. “Some take over an existing building, some start from scratch.”
Others offer programs in other existing facilities, he said.
“Just here in our region, which runs from Sacramento to Butte County, 70 percent of what we do takes place outside of a YMCA facility – at schools, community parks or church gymnasiums,” Lowden said.
The Superior California region includes nine counties: Nevada, Yolo, Sacramento, Colusa, Yuba, Sutter, Butte, Placer and El Dorado.
Volunteer MaryJane Huenergart, who is working as local coordinator for the YMCA, has launched an online community survey to gauge public interest. The link to the survey is available at https://www.survey monkey.com/s/BQY6RLN
Huenergart, the mother of three children, said she moved to Nevada County from the Bay Area a year ago with her husband, who works online for a San Francisco company. She said although she loves the community, she misses the free two-hour “Child Watch” child care service the YMCA offered in the Bay Area that allowed her time to exercise.
“It’s too expensive to work out here,” said Huenergart, who likes to swim and do yoga, but said she was unable to find affordable child care locally.
“I just really want to see it happen,” she said of the YMCA presence. “A community without a YMCA is missing that certain something.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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