Honoring Toledo’s past, investing in its future

Since Paul Steenkolk arrived in Toledo, the GTPRD has refurbished and maintained the history of the Toledo pool, while also leading a campaign to reconstruct and modernize the area for the community. (Photos by Nugesse Ghebrendrias)

The Greater Toledo Pool Recreation District (GTPRD) was formed with the passage of Measure 21-179 in the May 2017 election, the GTPRD was created to handle, maintain and renovate the Toledo pool and District-wide recreational area.

The District is governed by a Board of Directors and managed by Paul Steenkolk, District Manager. Their vision is to provide avenues for exercise and entertainment for the people of the Toledo area for the foreseeable future, but the renovation and beautification of the pool isn’t just about the facility.

The District’s strategic plan has three main goals: to create a vibrant aquatic facility that is a welcoming, fun, safe and educational resource for the district community; to operate and maintain the facility in a fiscally responsible manner that ensures the district community can depend on the pool as a resource for generations to come; lastly, to conduct and implement a well-planned renovation of the existing facility to meet the growing recreational needs of the District community.

The board’s plan isn’t simple because strengthening and revitalizing a community can be complicated and takes time.

Steenkolk’s vision is to give Toledo area locals something cool, and to protect something that has been a mainstay within the community for over 70 years.

The News-Times featured Steenkolk a year ago and since then, the GTPRD has made numerous improvements to the facility since taking ownership from the City of Toledo. The expected finish date of the pool’s current improvements, if all goes as planned, is in 2024.

For a major improvement, the pool was drained and all leaks were addressed both in the pool shell and the pump room. The pool facility was painted including locker rooms and the outside of the building. In addition, new lighting was installed on the inside and outside of the building — lighting that can be easily transferred to the new facility.

Lifeguarding certifications were given to capable students who underwent classes at the facility, hundreds of Toledo-area residents took part in various swim lessons throughout the years and the Eugene Skin Divers certified over 50 students with their scuba diving classes over the last two years. The divers will be back for another class at the Toledo pool in June.

“We aren’t trying to rebuild a pool, we are trying to rebuild a community,” Steenkolk said. “That’s our philosophy, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Like a beacon on a hill, the GTPRD can provide something unique and special to the residents of the Toledo area and maybe even help restore the town, and the area around it, to its former glory.

The multi-million-dollar project, financed by district taxpayers and essential donations, grants and fundraising, is meant to be a long-term investment, one that the Board hopes will provide a safe and friendly sanctum for kids, families and athletic events for years to come.

“Maybe some people will try to start a business downtown, or maybe a family might move from Newport and relocate to the area,” Steenkolk said. “That’s our direction and motivation; building something that everyone can use and try to give the town a little bit of hope.

“If we can have a pool, a fitness facility and a multi-purpose room where you could have daycare, aerobics classes and birthday parties, the community would benefit greatly from this resource. Our vision was captured perfectly in our architectural renderings which provides a high-level, aspirational view of the end product. Until you see it on paper, it’s hard to imagine.” 

A larger natatorium, a deeper and wider pool, increased energy/water efficiency and a completely ADA compliant facility will go a long way to not only create a lasting and usable community center, but one that is cost friendly and realistic.

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