Waimea pool to close for around five months

Built over 50 years ago by more than 500 volunteers, the Waimea War Memorial Swimming Pool (at Waimea High School) will soon be closing for the better part of five months for major renovations.

Members of the Kaua‘i County Council approved a bond-fund appropriation of $750,000 to renovate the Westside facility, county leaders said in a press release.

The scope of work for the Waimea swimming pool is extensive, and will include replacement of the chlorination, filtration, gutter and plumbing systems, replacement of the concrete coping around the entire pool deck and the mechanical- and chlorination-room doors, as well as re-tiling of the pool’s interior shell.

Additionally, new lane-cup anchors, starting blocks, stainless-steel ladders, a federal Americans with Disabilities Act access lift for the pool, and five rows of aluminum bleachers with ADA access, are also part of the pool-renovation plans.

“Work on the Waimea swimming pool was deferred for many years,” said Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste.

“I’m glad that we are now moving ahead with renovating this landmark facility, which is being made possible with the bond fund.”

If everything goes smoothly with the Waimea project, construction is scheduled to run from July to November.

“We wanted to leave the Waimea swimming pool open at the beginning of summer so the keiki can enjoy the pool during part of their summer vacation,” said County Engineer Donald Fujimoto.

Another consideration in scheduling the pool closure was the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation swim season, added Fujimoto.

“We’re hoping that the renovation will be completed at around the time that swimming practice usually begins, which is in December.”

Westside resident Glenn Kagawa said he is pleased that attention is finally being paid to a structure that holds many fond memories for him.

His father, Seigo Kagawa, was one of the volunteers who spent countless hours constructing the Waimea swimming pool back in 1955, and Glenn Kagawa swam in the pool daily when he was a child, and later went on to become a standout on the Waimea High School swim team. Now an engineer with Envisioneering Inc. and an active member of the community, Kagawa believes that the “pool should be preserved as a living memorial.”

In addition to the current renovation plans, he’d also like to see the Westside facility equipped with new windows, a hot-water system for the showers, new toilets, and a fresh coat of paint, he said, acknowledging that more funding is needed to completely restore the entire facility.

As a tribute to the hundreds of volunteers, the women who prepared meals for everyone involved in the enormous task, as well as the sugar-plantation managers, local businesses and contractors who provided use of their equipment and supplies needed for the project, Kagawa recently produced a DVD containing 16-millimeter footage shot by another volunteer, Baker Taniguchi, while the Waimea swimming pool was being built.

It also includes information on how the idea for this huge undertaking came to fruition.

The person credited with being the driving force behind the Waimea swimming pool project is the Rev. Hiro Higuchi, a former chaplain of the legendary U.S. Army 442nd Regimental Combat Team who also served as pastor of the Waimea Christian Church in the 1950s.

When Higuchi heard about the Waimea residents’ dream of having a swimming pool in their community, he recommended that they build it themselves, and offered to take charge of the project.

Higuchi started out by enlisting the support of his fellow combat veterans, and from there interest in the pool spread to the entire Westside community.

Next he won the approval of members of the Kaua‘i County Board of Supervisors for the project, and was assured by the officials that the pool would be maintained by county employees after it was built.

He also solicited the support of those in the county’s Engineering Division, who were responsible for drawing the plans for the Waimea facility.

Then Higuchi helped to organize a massive effort of recruiting an all-volunteer workforce, also getting commitments from owners and operators of local businesses for use of their equipment and tools, along with donations of materials and supplies.

Groundbreaking for the Waimea pool was held on Jan. 8, 1955, and every weekend for the next eight months a whole slew of volunteers dedicated their time, expertise and energy to this project.

“The Waimea swimming pool serves as a testament to the remarkable spirit of the people who worked on the project,” said Baptiste. “It truly is an inspiring example of collaboration.”

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