The community of Sarles, in the northwest corner of the county, is a stone’s throw away from the Canadian border. The small population, however, has done big things to make the border town a more hospitable place to live for its residents thanks to the recent renovation and re-opening of the Sarles community pool.
By Melissa Anderson
“The board had been contemplating for a few years what the best way to would be to address some of the repairs that needed to be done. The pad around the pool was heaving and cracked. The walls were starting to crack, and the concrete started to crumble,” said Sarles Park Board member Kristy McDonald. “We had been doing some temporary fixes, but the board decided something big needed to be done or we needed to close the pool.”
Sarles can boast of being the smallest town with a swimming pool, thanks to former residents Mr. and Mrs. A.H Plummer. Although this was a private pool built for their son who was born with a back condition, the Plummers wished to have the entire community enjoy it as well. They began the project of building in the early spring of 1953, and it was completed in July that same year. In the beginning, the volunteer help came from the American Legion Auxiliary members and other women in the community.
The Plummers turned ownership of the pool over to the city of Sarles in 1967. It now belongs to the Sarles Park District. The board made many improvements in the 1980’s including: a new wall, a chain link fence with wind guard liner, solar heating panels, new cement dressing rooms and an up-to-date filtering system. The Sarles pool has not only provided a welcomed recreational activity and a way to beat the heat but has also brought the ability to swim safely and well through Red Cross certified swimming lessons. In 2016 there were fifty-four children, from not only Sarles but Hannah, Wales, Munich, Rock Lake, Hansboro, Starkweather and Rolla- representing four different counties, partaking in lessons. Despite current agricultural challenges and the past mass exodus from the area in the 80’s and 90’s, the community has continued to support and appreciate the pool.
“The Sarles Pool has not only been a place to swim but has become an iconic institution for the town and surrounding area, something to take pride in and maybe even boast about a bit,” McDonald said.
In July 2017, the board held a community meeting. The meeting began at the deteriorating pool to allow residents and members of the community to see the condition the pool was in with the Sarles Park Board pointing out their major concerns before moving to the Sarles American Legion Hall for community discussion. McDonald explained that it was at that time that the board received overwhelming support from the community to take on the renovations of the pool.
“We started immediately after the community meeting with the fundraising. We wrote letters to area business, current and former residents of the Sarles area, and applied for grants,” McDonald stated.
Over the course of two years, the Sarles Park District was able to raise the necessary funds to renovate the pool. As a result of the campaign, the board funded the project with 70 percent of the money coming from donations alone. McDonald shared that of that donation percentage, it was a nearly even split of money coming from businesses and individuals.
The board utilized their own annual fundraiser, the Ladies Night Out event, to generate funds for the the renovation of the pool rather than general upkeep. The Sarles Fire Department also assisted with the project by graciously giving the Park Board the use of their annual fish fry fundraiser for the past two years.
“It takes a lot of volunteers to have a successful event. We had many community members and businesses donate items for raffle baskets for Ladies Night Out and salads and desserts for the fish fry,” McDonald shared.
Once the necessary funding had been accrued, the construction was set to begin the spring of 2018. The original plan for construction included redoing the pad around the pool and three walls of the pool, however, that was quickly scrapped as demolition took place. The extent of deterioration made it apparent that more work was needed than originally thought. Randy Deplazes out of Rugby poured the concrete and helped to design the drain tile around the pool, helping to eliminate frost problems.
McDonald noted that the community pool was truly a community effort beyond the fundraising as a lot of local volunteer man hours went into the process of getting the pool prepped for and cleaned up after construction. The board especially wants to note the hard work put in by Espen and Coby Dalgliesh, who volunteered time and resources for the demolition. The challenging work took longer than expected as the rainy season in 2018 prevented the project from being finished before snow fell. The work was officially completed in spring of 2019.
“The big challenge was waiting on the weather. Coming from a farming community, farms had to come first and the pool second. It made it frustrating at times with the slower than expected time frame, but thankfully everyone was patient with our process,” McDonald said.
The pool was opened the beginning of July 2019 for use. There is still the installation of the diving board, but otherwise the pool is fully functional. This year, the monitoring of the pool’s chemical levels is being handled by a couple of people who test the chemical levels two times a day. Thus far, members have been good to help with the sweeping and skimming the pool daily. The importance of having the pool is not lost to McDonald as she believes the kids in the area need to have something to do that doesn’t involve driving forty miles.
“It not only provides a place for Sarles children, it is not unusual on any given day to also have kids from Munich, Calvin, Hannah, Wales, Hansboro and Rock Lake; we are averaging over 25 swimmers a day,” McDonald shared. “It not only provides necessary swimming lesson, it also promotes physical activity and healthy lifestyle. It provides grandparents the opportunity to bring their grandchildren into the pool in which a lot of them learned to swim at. On a historical level the pool was something our small town was known for, and the community was not willing to give that up.”
One particular aspect of the pool that needs to be noted prior to anyone planning to take a dip is that the pool is operating under the same rules as a hotel swimming pool, “Swim at your own risk”. Passes can be purchased for family, individual, or grandparent which will grant access with a key giving members the ability to use the pool at their convenience. Children under 14 need to be accompanied by an adult.
“The pool has open swim for members, and we have a picnic area that groups can use for group events, such as birthday or pizza parties. Swimming lesson will be held August 12-16. If interested we still have available spots, contact us on Facebook,” McDonald said.
The Sarles Park District has the continued goal of making improvements and additions to the pool while promoting a fun family atmosphere. To finish all their goals, they will need to raise more funds. People are invited to follow the Sarles Park District on Facebook for current happenings and future events. The board would like to thank all of the businesses and individuals for their donations of money and/or time put into this project. The board is hopeful to keep the pool open through the Labor Day weekend for its first year of being open again.