MORTON — Carol Jankowski led an effort more than a decade ago to convince the community that a new Morton Pool needed to be built.
Her Friends of the Morton Pool group proved to be quite persuasive.
Morton Park District voters overwhelmingly approved a $4 million pool bond referendum in 2008. A new $4.1 million Morton Pool opened on time and on budget in 2010 in the footprint of the former pool, which was built in 1963.
"I saw it as a quality of life issue in our town," Jankowski said last week when asked why she served as chairwoman of the 10-member referendum support group, carving out time from her busy family life and freelance writing duties.
"Plus, we weren't looking to build a destination pool, like a Splashdown (in East Peoria)," she said. "We wanted to build a community pool, a park district pool that was right-sized for Morton."
That right-sized pool off East Idlewood Street in Idlewood Park is 10 years old this summer. The pool opened for the season Saturday and the park district is celebrating the facility's 10th anniversary with special days June 10, July 10 and Aug. 10.
On those three special days, the first 10 people in line for open swim will get in for free. Popcorn will be 10 cents (one per customer), fountain soda refills will be 10 cents (unlimited) and there will be giveaways and drawings.
Open swim at the pool is from 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and 1 to 5:45 p.m. Monday and Wednesday. The pool closes at 4:30 p.m. when the Morton Otters summer swim team has a home meet.
Daily open swim fee is $5. Swimmers ages 2 and younger and 65 and older are admitted free.
Park district residents can purchase a coupon book with 10 open swim admissions for $25. Season open swim passes are $50 for residents and $75 for non-residents. Coupon books and season passes are on sale at the Morton Park District office, 349 W. Birchwood St.
Group rentals of the pool also are available.
The former Morton Pool was at the end of its expected life when the current pool was built. Plus, the old pool had none of the amenities that community pools now feature.
"The old pool was really nothing more than a cement pond," former park district executive director Gary Watson said in a 2010 Journal Star story, making a pop culture reference to "The Beverly Hillbillies" television show that debuted in 1962.
The current pool has diving boards, slides, interactive water toys and shade areas.
Parking also is more plentiful these days. The park district spent $300,000 from its reserves to build a parking lot off East Greenwood Street just north of the pool with more than 100 spaces.
The lot replaced a 55-space lot. A portion of the new lot is in the footprint of the former pool.
Years after leading the bond referendum effort, Jankowski is more convinced than ever that she did the right thing.
"My kids had been on the Otters swim team for several years back then, but they were 14 and 16 at the time so they weren't going to be on the team for 10 more years," she said.
"I felt strongly that people stepped forward years earlier to build a pool that our family enjoyed, and we as a community should do the same thing for future families."
Jankowski said she understands the criticism of spending millions of taxpayer dollars for a pool that's open only three months a year because of the weather and staff availability.
"The Morton Pool is busy from early in the morning to late at night most days during those three months," she said. "And it provides good summer jobs for teenagers, from being a lifeguard to working at the concession stand. A lot of kids want to work at the Morton Pool."
The pool closes for the season Aug. 11.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.