The hot weather this summer helped boost Prairie Trails Family Aquatic Center past a milestone that was only dreamed of in other summers--the 10,000 mark.
Pool manager Cheri Nessen said the 10,000th person to use the pool area this year passed through the doors Aug. 12, during a private party held for Wayne County Hospital employees and their families.
The previous high-attendance year was 2007, which saw 9,373 people come through the doors. Swimming is a weather-driven industry, and Nessen says the numbers show which summers were warm and which were cooler. The lowest number was in 2009, when 6,242 people used the pool. The summers of 2008, 2009 and 2011 also saw numbers in the 6-7,000 range.
The numbers include everyone who came through the doors of the facility, whether for swimming lessons, water exercise, attending a private party or enjoying a summer afternoon at the pool.
The $1.25 million facility was built in 2004 and 2005 and opened for a short season in July 2005. A bond issue, a loan and donations financed the pool. Much of the borrowed funding will soon be paid off.
Although the pool is now closed until next summer, the pool already recorded high activity this year and plans are to schedule many of the same events and possibly some new ones for next year.
In addition to the public swimming every day, there are special game days for children, pool rental for special functions and a free-admision night on the first Friday in August, with music, games, food and lots of fun.
There is also serious business at the pool, with Learn-to-Swim during the month of June and preschool swim lessons in July, both free to any children in Wayne County and financed by private donations. A very valuable group of adult volunteers help with the free lessons every year. The tradition of free swimming lessons dates back more than 30 years. Plans are to continue free lessons as long as expenses are covered.
Private lessons for any age and Diaper Dolphins for children under 3 years old are available, for a fee. Adult water exercise sessions are held twice each week.
Scuba diving, kayaking and diving clinics have also drawn students.
Not only does the pool serve the community with lessons and open swim time, it also provides employment. Generally there are 16 to 19 employees, which includes managers and assistant managers, lifeguards and concession workers. Managers work with employees to make schedules flexible and fit the employees' needs, so lifeguards can also go on family vacations, participate in sports and the county fair, or even have a second job.
Nessen says this employment serves as a "first job" experience for many area youth, giving them both work experience and income. "These young people are already making a difference in the community," Nessen said of the swim teachers, "teaching a life-saving skill to many younger children."
Nessen is rightfully pleased with the 10,000th-visitor mark that occurred this summer, on both the fun-in-the-sun side and the water-safety side.
"I am so proud that PTFAC serves the community educationally in our swim lessons and youth employment and recreationally with our programs and availability," Nessen said. "Our mission is to provide a fun, safe and relaxing experience for the residents of Wayne County--no matter your age."