Surrounded by towering trees in the middle of a quiet city park, Yost Pool has been a favorite for generations of Edmonds families looking for a place to cool off, exercise and socialize during the summer. Traditionally, the outdoor pool is open from June-September. But that changed last fall, when Yost became an oasis for lap swimmers, water walkers and others willing to brave the cold temperatures for a peaceful dip in the City of Edmonds-owned pool.
The fact that Yost remained open in the fall and winter wasn’t well publicized — and that was by design, said David Orr, executive director of Cascade Swim Club, which is now contracting with the city to operate the pool. A nonprofit and the oldest year-round swim club in Washington state, Cascade runs its programs through several Seattle-area pools. In spring 2021, Cascade contracted with the Dale Turner YMCA — which in 2014 began operating Yost Pool for the summer only through an annual agreement with the City of Edmonds — for pool time to hold their summer practices. Then, at the end of the summer, Cascade notified the city it was interested in doing a pilot project for year-round operations at Yost — a short-term effort to ensure that the facility could accommodate being open in the cooler months.
Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley said the city welcomed Cascade’s proposal. During the past few years, the YMCA had been finding it increasingly difficult to continue Yost Pool operations, Burley said, and “had been shrinking the number of days the pool was operational consistently for several years due to the cost to run the pool, staffing shortages and other challenges.” The YMCA’s difficulties were exacerbated by the pandemic. Yost pool was closed for a year due to COVID restrictions, and when it reopened in 2022, the YMCA struggled to rehire pool staff — including certified lifeguards — after pandemic-related layoffs.
When the YMCA learned that Cascade would be submitting a proposal to run Yost Pool year-round, it bowed out of contracting to operate the pool in summer 2022, Burley said. “In short, Cascade is the only partner who offered to run the pool in 2022, and without Cascade it is unlikely the pool would have operated this summer.”
Under the fall/winter trial, Orr said, Cascade operated its regular swim club programs but the pool was also open to the public for lap swimming and water walkers (those who exercise in the pool’s shallow end). In addition, Cascade formed a masters swim team for adults who wanted to swim together and compete in swim meets.
“The trial went very well and we decided to continue,” Orr said, adding it was gratifying to see the pool being used, especially after the pandemic. Under the 2022-23 contract between Cascade and the city — signed by both parties in late March and early April — Cascade will pay Edmonds a flat fee of $4,500 a month. While this allows Cascade to use the pool for team practices and related swim club programs, the club is required to provide public access to the pool and also will be responsible for day-today operations, similar to the YMCA arrangement. The city, meanwhile, will cover utility fees, chemical supplies, capital expenses and mechanical operations. The city will also provide staff for day-to-day maintenance of pool chemicals and weekly filter cleaning, and will also be responsible for ensuring health and safety protocols are met.
“This agreement is similar to previous agreements with the YMCA but is for a longer period of time,” Burley said. The flat-fee arrangement, she added, “allows Cascade to develop programming and get creative with revenue generation such as corporate partners.”
Edmonds resident Kristi Urquhart said her family boasts three generations of Yost Pool swimmers — including a daughter who swims for Cascade at a different pool. “We were beyond thrilled to hear that Cascade Swim Club would be taking over operations of the pool,” including through the winter months, she said.
Urquhart’s husband, Scott, uses the pool several times a week, both as a morning lap swimmer and as a member of the masters team. Scott’s father, Sandy, who will turn 83 this summer, also swims at Yost during the winter, as do many other senior swimmers, she said.
“The pool is alive,” Kristi Urquhart said. “The fresh air is unlimited. You’d be hard pressed to find a swimmer that doesn’t prefer to be in the open air vs. indoor enclosures.”
Another Yost swimmer, Kristen Paust, said she has also been part of the masters team and enjoys swimming in the heated pool during the cooler weather. “The pool is heated — it is not cold,” she said.
“There are a number of year-round swimming pools in the area – including Aqua Club in Kenmore, which is where a number of Edmonds residents were swimming (including myself),” Paust said. “But it is a private club and a drive for us. With Yost open and a masters team practicing there in the mornings – it has been very nice.”
Paust said she is also looking forward to Cascade’s involvement in running the community-based Yost Penguins youth swim team, which the YMCA chose not to operate last year due to staffing constraints — a decision that dismayed many Edmonds parents, herself included.
“Cascade is more familiar with selective, competitive swim teams – the Penguins will be a change for them,” Paust said. “But given what I have seen so far, I doubt they will have an issue.
“I’m excited to have them onboard, as I think they know how to run the pool better than the YMCA,” Paust continued. “We’ll have to see how the summer goes – getting the Penguins back is a big deal to me and our community.”
Cascade “has created a sense of local community that is reminiscent of simpler times in Edmonds,” Kristi Urquhart added. “It feels local. They’ve created a safe environment for us to bond with our neighbors as we share the wonderful experience of physical activity in a beautiful outdoor setting. The Yost community is an oasis of happiness in our chaotic world and an example of how parks and recreation creates health and wellness.”
The pool is now closed for plastering and maintenance work prior to the summer season, but Orr said the club is looking forward to creating a robust summer swim program similar to what Yost patrons experienced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the Penguins swim team, that includes public, lap and family swims; discounted fees for Edmonds residents and the popular punch cards. The pool will also be honoring the vouchers for free swim lessons for Edmonds School District third-graders, an initiative funded through a Verdant Health Commission grant.
More details about summer pool operations, including a new website, will be provided as they are finalized, Orr said.
According to Burley, it isn’t unusual for swim clubs to run community pools, with other clubs operating pools in Juanita, Redmond, Mercer Island and Mill Creek. One built-in advantage that swim clubs have is a steady stream of lifeguards from their swim programs, she said, noting that Cascade “trained and certified 10 of them just last week” at Yost Pool. Burley said that Cascade is also “very excited to bring back the Penguins. Swim teams are their specialty and they are eager to ensure the program is as good if not better than it was before for the kids.”
Orr stressed that Cascade is “not trying to reinvent the wheel. We want to run it (the summer program) like it was before and make sure everybody’s happy.” Then, for the cooler months, Cascade plans to again offer limited programming, including a masters program, lap swimming and water walking.
“We’ve been delighted to be able to operate the pool for Edmonds,” Orr said. “We take pride in being a community organization.”
— By Teresa Wippel