A determined group of Cambrians has taken a decade-old idea for a new community pool and run with it.
Cambrians for Aquatics now has official nonprofit status, a letter of agreement with County Parks and architect’s renderings for a plan that would make significant changes to Shamel Park, with an emphasis on replacing the circa 1940s pool with 25-yard-long, heated swimming facility with showers and changing rooms.
All it needs to make it happen is community approval, donations and grants, permits for the changes and between $3 and $5 million.
“Ultimately, what happens is up to the community to decide. ... If the community does indeed want it and is willing to pay toward it, there are grants out there to help,” Nick Franco, director of the County Parks and Recreation Department, said. “Cambrians for Aquatics have a very good vision for bringing a larger pool to Cambria for the public to use.”
Jim Major is the president of the nonprofit group’s board, Tom Gray is vice president and Beth Yudovin is secretary. Yudovin and her late husband, David Yudovin (a world-class open-water swimmer who was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2014) have for more than a decade championed improving Cambria’s pool so all kinds of swimmers can train in it and enjoy it all year.
Yudovin said architect Allan Kroeker of 19/6 Architects in San Luis Obispo has already done some renderings of the draft plan to give people a better idea of what the group is envisioning. She, Major and Barbara Bronson Gray introduced the pool project to the North Coast Advisory Council on July 17.
Franco said in a July 24 email interview that the current pool “certainly is getting older, so a partnership to replace that could be a great benefit. But a project like this certainly isn’t for the faint of heart; it will be expensive, it requires recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission and approval of the Board of Supervisors, it will require extensive permitting (including a Coastal Development Permit), it requires us to figure out how to integrate with the other park uses (all the current uses will remain), and most importantly, it requires validating that this is what the community wants at the park.”
The letter of agreement says the park’s pool is currently “open only during the summer” and that the Aquatics group “is interested in using Shamel Park as the location for a six-lane, 25-yard-long heated, year-round pool, with locker rooms, showers and restrooms.”
Franco said in the interview that the general concept is to relocate the pool at the south end of the park and move the group picnic area to where the pool currently is. The playground, restrooms, horseshoes, coastal access, gazebo, turf area, etc., would all remain. The plan calls for improving the public parking areas, too.
All that “is not a done deal by any means,” Franco said, “just a concept.”
That said, he considers “the likelihood of success is high, but I think that success will come later rather than sooner due to the nature of the project and the amount of time it will take.”
Recently, Cambrians for Aquatics representatives have made various presentations about the plan, to such entities as North Coast Advisory Council, Rotary Club, Lions Club and Cambria Newcomers Club, seeking input about the plan, unofficial approval of it and financial support (now that the aquatics group has its 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation that makes donations deductible for the donors).
Such a pool could provide a training ground for swimming and scuba classes, organized water sports and athletics, aquatic exercise, physical therapy and rehabilitation.
A 2017-2018 plan to put the pool behind the Coast Union High School tennis courts never got past the initial talking stages.
The need for county pools is obvious, Franco said.
“We are a coastal community and access to safe swimming is not only good for our community recreation, but an important life skill for kids to learn to help keep them safe — especially growing up near the ocean,” he said. “Pools really are important to having a safe and livable community.”
Donations toward the new concept for Shamel Park and the pool can go to Cambrians for Aquatics, P.O. Box 232, Cambria, 93428. For details, contact Bronson Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.