Veterans Memorial Pool Campaign
Who We Are:
The Veterans Memorial Pool Campaign (VMPC) is a group of community members who have been working together to champion the renovation of the historic La Crosse Municipal Pool as Veterans Memorial Pool, a 21st-century neighborhood aquatic center welcoming to all ages and abilities.
We invite you to join us in our cause: the rebirth and re-imagining of the Veterans Memorial Pool.
To support the renovation and reopening of Veterans Memorial Pool in order to promote health, develop life-saving skills, build community, and honor our heritage by investing in our future.
Our Campaign Volunteers & Friends Include:
Kate Escher - Co-Chair, Erin Flottmeyer - Co-Chair, Annie Berendes, Polly Berendes, Sue Bluske, Judy Bouffleur, Kraig Brownell, Sue Bulk, Joel Detwiler, Jane Domroese, Jon Evans, Emily Farmer, Nora Garland, Adam Flood, Donald Greengrass, Sr., Joey P. Kay, The Ray Kroner Family, Nancy Johnson, John Jolly, Mike Lemmon, Dr. Erin Maslowski, Kay Mazza, Wade Miller, Michelle Nauman, Katie Nowak, Kelly Nowicki, Chau Nguyen, Terry Rindfleisch, Jacob Sciammas, Dr. Richard Strauss, Alex Stoffergen, Donna Sullivan, Tracy Swanson, Ben Wilson, Lynn Wolter
What Is Our Goal?:
The campaign’s goal is to help raise funds to purchase equipment and amenities that will be donated to the City of La Crosse to support the 2019 opening of Veterans Memorial Pool, realizing the city’s design for an aquatic center that includes
eight swimming lanes,
a deep water diving and play area,
an updated bathhouse that meets current standards for accessibility and safety while preserving its historic character,
the capacity to support a variety of recreational and educational programming,
a generous, welcoming deck space for gathering and building community.
Why do we ask for your support?:
We believe that revitalizing and reopening Veterans Memorial Pool will provide
a facility that offers aquatic options for ALL ages and abilities,
a walkable, bikeable location for over 29,000 community members who live within 1.5 miles of VMP,
an additional city facility to support summer recreation, swimming education, and aquatic programming, especially for our center-city youth and families,
investment in the stability of surrounding neighborhoods facing stresses common to urban environments,
revitalization of a beloved La Crosse landmark where residents can gather to build a healthy community.
What Is Our Call to Action?:
The VMP Campaign offers our enthusiastic support for the city’s renovation and reopening of Veterans Memorial Pool. We are asking for your continued support for the funding for this vital project in the heart of our city. Interested volunteers and supporters are welcome to contact us.
Please email email@example.com, like us on Facebook at “Veterans Memorial Pool Campaign La Crosse, WI”, write us at PO Box 1661 La Crosse, WI 54602, and call (608) 492-4392 for more info, to share a contribution, and to sign up for future communications.
APPROVED POOL AND BATH HOUSE DESIGNS
What Will It Look Like?:
On August 9th, 2018 the La Crosse Common Council unanimously approved the renovation design concepts.
6 Physicians from Gundersen & Mayo:
As pediatricians who live and work in La Crosse, we support revitalizing the current Veterans Memorial Pool site. We recognize that factors beyond our medical centers’ walls contribute greatly to the health of La Crosse’s children. A pool at the current Veterans Memorial Pool site would serve to foster community, increase physical activity, and promote water safety. In turn, this could lead to improved physical and mental health of our children.
Every day, we see children with obesity, mental illness, and traumatic pasts. A pool at the current Veterans Memorial Pool site is central for the whole city, accessible by non-motorized transportation, allows for easy collaboration among community partners, and connects our youth to past generations through its historic appeal.
Please consider the health of our future city leaders and support the revitalization of Veterans Memorial Pool.
Regards, Elizabeth R. Hansen, M.D. , FAAP; Nikki Hennessy, M.D.; Jennifer Kleven, M.D.; Andrea Van Wyk, M.D.; Ann Budzak-Garcia, M.D.; Lee Johnson, M.D.
Ray Kroner Family:
Our father, Ray Kroner, was born and raised in La Crosse along with his older brother Ludwig, his twin brother Russ, and sisters Phyllis and Emily. Their father owned Kroner Wholesale Hardware and owned one of the first homes on Losey Boulevard. Our dad took great pride in his hometown and being from La Crosse.
When WWII began, he enlisted in the Navy and, after serving his country, returned to La Crosse. He attended La Crosse State Teachers College and became a school teacher. When school let out for summer, Ray took a position as the Supervisor of Pools and Beaches for the city of La Crosse. Dad knew the importance of having safe and accessible physical activities for kids and families and believed in serving his community, so this was the perfect summer job for him.
Ray oversaw the La Crosse pools and beaches from the 1950s through 1988. Each day, he would do his rounds, traveling to all the pools and beaches twice a day. He would check in with the lifeguards, make sure the cleaning was taken care of, bring supplies if needed, etc. The pools and beaches were located all around the city, giving everyone easy access to a place to swim. He put on a lot of miles each summer!
In Ray’s very early days with the Parks and Recreation Department, he was a counselor at a neighborhood park and was a lifeguard. He also raised and lowered the flag at the top of Grand Dad’s Bluff. Knowing that the flagpole at Memorial Pool will be revitalized would mean a lot to him. He taught all 3 of us girls to stand at a parade as the flag goes by, and to put our hand over our heart. Ray’s love of history and patriotism is 2nd to none.
Growing up all 3 of us girls would go with our dad on his rounds to the pools and beaches. We thought it was fun to go “behind the scenes” where other kids didn’t get to go. While he talked and did his job, we got to go swimming at all the facilities. Of course we’d have to get an ice cream cone on those hot summer days! We were lucky enough to only know the experience of swimming in an outdoor pool. From the “kiddie pool” at Erickson Pool, to taking swimming lessons, to enjoying family swim on Sunday mornings, we were able to enjoy the greatness of La Crosse growing up. Not only did Ray have his daughters involved in the swimming aspect of the Parks and Recreation Department, we took tennis lessons, took part in the city tennis tournaments, and enjoying the lester lace at the local park buildings.
When Erickson Pool was revitalized, Ray was so happy to see the pool full of kids as it was when we were growing up. It truly brought a smile to his face. He had seen the number of pool participants dwindle as the years progressed towards his retirement.
Ray is no longer with us, but we know that he would encourage everyone to support the revitalization of Veterans Memorial Pool. He was a proud veteran, knew the importance of neighborhood swimming facilities, and was a strong advocate of providing swimming lessons to prevent drowning. He was also a frugal man and would want to make sure that city funds were managed properly, so he would be very happy to see private donations helping support this effort.
How many of us have great memories of summer days at Memorial Pool? The high diving board, the slides, passing the swimming test so we could go in “the deep end”, the metal pins we pinned to our swimming suits that had our basket number on it, the smell of the chlorine, the little shack across the street where you could get a snow cone. Those were good times.
If each of us that fondly remember those times donate what we can, we can create those memories for our grandchildren and future generations.
Dr. Richard Strauss:
The goal of Veterans Memorial Pool when it was built in 1938 was to promote water safety in a river city in which accidental drowning in the Mississippi River was an ever-present risk and an unfortunate reality. That risk and that reality still exist, perhaps not as much in the river nowadays, but in lakes, fishing holes, and swimming pools, there continues to be a risk of drowning. As a critical care pediatrician, I recognize that risk, because every year I care for children in the Gundersen pediatric intensive care unit who have drowned or nearly drowned. What happens to cause these unspeakable events? It’s usually the combination of a child who hasn’t mastered swimming who slips out of sight of adults or friends for perhaps only a few minutes, which may be long enough to result in death or life-long disability if that child isn’t located and rescued in time. These deaths and disastrous injuries are preventable.
How can the risk of these terrible injuries and deaths be lessened? How can these tragedies be prevented? With the provision of swimming lessons and water safety promotion right here in our community. Where can that be done? At the new Veterans Memorial Pool, which will promote health, fitness, and safety in the midst of our community, in a facility which is easily reachable on foot, by bike, on the bus, or in a car. The new Veterans Memorial Pool will combine location, history, community, recreation, fitness, fun, and high-quality life-saving swimming lessons and water safety promotion. The new Veterans Memorial Pool will be a valuable investment in the future of the region by reducing the likelihood of childhood drowning. Who is the future of our community? Our children. We can make their and their families’ lives better with the new pool.
Combining an ideal location, history, community, recreation, fitness, fun, and life-saving swim lessons, a new Veterans Memorial Pool is a valuable investment in the future of our region.
We are excited to see the efforts of the Veterans Memorial Municipal Pool Committee and recognize the role the University can play in the reopening of the site. The UWL Student Association sees the potential for a partnership between the city and UWL. Improved communication and cooperation between the city and University will be beneficial to both entities.
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Student Association supports the reopening of Veterans Memorial Municipal Pool in its current location and we sincerely hope the issue can bring the city and University closer together."
UWL Student Association:
"The Veterans Memorial Municipal Pool is located in close vicinity to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus. Due to the proximity of the two sites, we feel a need to weigh in on the efforts to refurbish and restore Veterans Memorial Municipal Pool.
The pool offers many benefits to the community and provides a central location for multiple neighborhoods. A close and safe place for area families, children, adults, and UWL faculty, staff, and students to engage in summer fun is an important aspect of successful community.
Jason Gilman, La Crosse City Planner (from City Meeting transcripts):
"From a planning standpoint then, those sites that have maximum benefit to inclusiveness, advantage social equity, are walkable, bikeable and reachable by transit, serve as catalysts for neighborhood improvement and stabilization, are multi-purposed-offering flexibility, co-location and adaptation for the seasons and revenue streams, offer energy reduction and sustainability targets, make use of existing investment, offer environmental advantages-either in repair, adaptive re-use or improvement to environmental conditions are the preferred options.
Of course, planners must also consider the fiscal constraints and opportunities of the City, market trends, etc. It is also important to recognize the past, when cities didn’t have nearly the economic infrastructure and service demands and were able to invest in beautiful public facilities, in part due to civic-minded philanthropists towards spaces and buildings with materials that would endure and by design, enhance the lives of the citizenry. Given the challenges and costs of the modern era of public service expectations, correcting a substantial inventory of decaying infrastructure and facilities, stimulating economic growth and sustainable urbanism and rebuilding aging neighborhoods, these projects are perhaps well suited to philanthropic partnerships, for their city and neighborhood legacy, value to children and the aged, and the stewardship of history.
Particulars about the existing Memorial Pool Site:
Value of Existing Facility-Known Location, Historic Site, site infrastructure adjacencies-parking, bike-ped, transit.
Part of a Neighborhood Service Node-Impacting local business investment
Population access is substantial-young and old and social equity-reaching downtown and Washburn markets-Estimated 5 minute walk population=1,985 residences within 2,600 feet-10 to 15 minute walk, 4,000+ people.
Pedestrian-oriented, not a car-oriented site
P-5 Opportunities, philanthropic opportunities-history, demographic, adjacencies
Surrounded by an area of 5 to 20% minority population per 2010 Census block and tract data and greater minority populations in part due to University influence."
Ho-Chunk – District 2:
"We, the Nation’s District 2 Representative and community members,
support efforts in this endeavor. We understand that the importance of
the pool being located in a central location, easily accessible to most
neighborhoods in the surrounding area by road, trail, and walkway. We
see this as very advantageous to the La Crosse communities of all
ethnicities, as tribal members have historically accessed the pool.
As the original inhabitants of Hinuk Was, we originated the need for
protecting historical lands, properties and other significant artifacts in the
area. The Veterans Memorial Pool may not be Ho-Chunk; but is the pool
not historically significant to the current city of La Crosse? One would
In summary, we understand the importance of the pool to the area. The Ho-Chunk Nation always strives to show community support and build or maintain partnerships. We support the efforts of GENA and those who will eventually help to renovate and re-open the pool for all of our La Crosse citizens to utilize."
fun and relaxed. Whether by playing with younger patrons during breaks, picking the best songs on the radio, or judging cannonball contest in the dive well, it was important that patrons enjoyed visiting Memorial Pool as much as we enjoyed guarding there. And judging from the patrons who returned, day after halcyon day and summer after summer, we weren't entirely unsuccessful.
It would be impossible to speak for everyone who came, but generally Memorial Pool's patrons, many of whom lived only a quick walk or bike ride away, liked the pool's location and the activities it offered. Fitness classes, swim lessons, and lap swim were always well attended; and periods of open swim were filled with kids perfecting their dives or playing "Colors," their version of tag. From time to time, older swimmers would stop by with stories to tell of when they too learned to swim there, when the diving boards were nine feet high, and when admission cost only a nickel. Add to this mix the area's college students and local daycares, and things were always interesting around the pool.
Speaking as a group that has seen first-hand the benefits that Memorial Pool bring to the community it serves, we lifeguards would be sad to see it close, and expect that many of these others groups would be disappointed as well. "Municipool," as it was known, was never the newest, and it never had the fanciest equipment. The pool house was sparse, and the water often cold, but beyond these shortcomings, people still enjoyed swimming there. It's worth asking: had the slide been replaced, or had the water been heated, or had any number of other improvements been tried, would one of those have made a difference? People came and enjoyed Memorial Pool for what it was, but it isn't hard to envision an even better version. We've guarded at all the pools in the city, at the beaches, and at other spots around the state and beyond, but it's easy to agree, there's something special about Memorial. Whether that was its location, or the people, or the facility itself, whatever it is, it would be sad to let that go."
10 Local Businesses on
State Rd and Campbell Rd:
"Our 10 businesses in the State & Campbell business district (that’s what we like to call ourselves) are writing to express our shared support for keeping Memorial Pool open. Our businesses, families, employees, patrons and the
17 Former Memorial Pool Lifeguards:
"In light of the Parks Commission's recent recommendation to close Memorial Pool for the Summer of 2016, this group, made up of seventeen former lifeguards who have collectively spent over 40 summers lifeguarding at Memorial Pool, would like to express its opinion on the situation that faces the City of La Crosse. Having seen what Memorial Pool has to offer, as well as where its faults lie, we feel it is important and appropriate for us to comment on the decision at hand.
For many of us, lifeguarding at Memorial Pool was more than just a nice summer job. While our first priority was always to make sure that the pool's patrons were safe, our task didn't end there. We took pride in creating an environment that was not only safe and clean but also an atmosphere that was
neighborhood love Memorial Pool and we will outline our opposition to the closing of the pool in order of priority.
Our business is greatly dependent on business from UWL students, staff and faculty, many of whom also live in the neighborhood. While this is generally good, it does pose one business challenge – the dreaded summer slowdown when UWL is not in session. For many of us, our proximity to the pool allows us to avoid some of that. All of us provide full and part-time staff and we pay thousands of dollars annually in assorted city fees and property, sales, and employment taxes. The closure of the pool will diminish the value of our property and hurt our businesses.
This is a beautiful neighborhood and we have an equally beautiful neighborhood pool and we would like to keep it. Memorial Pool is also the primary outdoor pool for the entire community in this area. We are more willingly to pay rather steep property taxes in the hope the city uses our money wisely, such as keeping up with deferred maintenance on a much-loved neighborhood institution like Memorial Pool. This small business area of the neighborhood is thriving and growing despite challenges in the past, we don’t want to see actions like this that can reverse the trend – it is in the best interest of everyone in the City.
Erickson Pool, the Northside Pool or a pool at Forest Hills are not viable alternatives for those of who live in the interior neighborhoods - both generally require one to drive, which seems to work in conflict with our City Transportation Vision to improve access to neighborhood assets like Memorial Pool (even a few UWL people stick around in the summer such as students attending summer school and most faculty as well as staff). The only remaining university pool is an indoor pool, and therefore, Memorial Pool is the only outdoor pool within walking distance of UWL – we should be working harder to capitalize on this opportunity, rather than giving up.
Lastly, Memorial pool is an old fashioned “swimming” pool with wonderful historic qualities. It is a place for neighbors and City residents to connect and build community – it strengthens our neighborhoods. It’s a more relaxed, leisurely, family pool where one can actually swim laps and take classes to improve the fitness of children, adults and seniors alike – it actually improves the health of our community.
Memorial Pool is valuable, historic, unique, and irreplaceable. Please fix it and keep it open."
Sue Pinski - Realtor:
"What great memories many of us have growing up in La Crosse with friends and family swimming at our beautiful pools, whether it be the Municipal (it was always the “Municipal” to us growing up), La Crosse Country Club, Erickson, or the many La Crosse Parks and Recreation wading pools. We have lost too many, and it is time to revitalize swimming opportunities in our City.
I know many families in our community wanting those same swimming-social and life-saving-skill opportunities again for themselves, their children or their grandchildren, but an additional pool is needed. With emphasis on lifelong healthy habits, spending time outdoors and safe neighborhoods, what better way to build a thriving community where kids have a supervised activity and can build independence at the same time.
As a realtor, I know how important schools and recreation, within walking distance of their property, are to house-hunters. One reason people appreciate living in our city so much is to avoid driving when possible. Telling kids to ride their bikes or count on their busy parents to give them a ride to crowded Erickson or to the Northside pool isn't really practical.
Our grandkids in Madison are now old enough to ride bikes to their neighborhood pool about 6 blocks from their home. This will be their 3rd year on the swim-team and it's great to see their sense of pride and accomplishment, plus dedication to making 7:15am practices Monday-Friday! They've met new friends throughout the Madison area competitions while learning commitment and team work with their neighborhood friends. Municipal is fit for a similar story.
Many of us have worked diligently for years to improve the quality of our lives and our children’s. Please consider the reconstruction of Municipal Pool in its current location as an investment in quality of life - for yourself, your family, and your neighborhood. It is time for a new and improved Municipal Pool that pays tribute to our history and our Veterans that will serve us 80 more years!"
Kay Mazza - Special Needs & Abilities Family:
"The pool contains many important memories of “growing up” for me, as a key place for my family to spend quality time together, and especially for my disabled sister, Lynn. As a part of fun and exercise, we often would find ourselves invested in weekday swim classes for people with disabilities at UWL and then would visit “Municipal Pool” on nights and weekends to practice further and transfer learned skills. Over time, the conditions and general water temperatures at the pool prevented my sister from using it, causing more harm than help, due to her limitations.
Today, she and other disabled adults continue their commitment with the swim program at UWL. While she and her housemates of Bridges of Belonging have gone to Erickson, it is unfit to navigate safely with a group of 4 disabled adults given the more waterpark-like environment and limited accessibility. Bringing back their program’s extension to the Municipal pool seems like one of the many natural connections and partnerships that we should want and strive for, to benefit all of La Crosse's residents.
The Municipal Pool can bring progressive, big picture opportunities like this forward, because improved access to aquatic wellness activities and safe swimming skills is a worthy and bountiful cause for everyone. Thank you, Kay M. Mazza."
David Marshall - Veteran:
"As a kid I would ride my bike to the pool. The two-mile trip from my house by car was cut in half by taking the trail through the woods on my blue Schwinn. Throughout the frame I had placed dozens of stickers with messages like Groovy! and Can You Dig It? and Keep on Truckin’. With its distinctive yellow banana seat adorned by a large smiley face decal, the Stingray took me through town at light speeds, aided in no small part by handlebar streamers sailing in the wind and playing cards flapping against the spokes.
I would meet my friends just outside the pool. Resting our bikes against the chain-link fence, we would each present our pool cards and enter into a magical realm of laughter and blue water. For hours we’d play in the bright sun, splashing, diving, swimming, and jumping. Competition was always an element of our play. We would see who could swim the fastest, hold their breath the longest, dive the deepest, who could swim underwater the furthest. Our imagination for
chlorinated games was unlimited. From Marco Polo to water polo, from chicken fights to diving for treasure, from handstand contests to belly flop contests to cannonball contests, there wasn’t a game we didn’t know.
Later as an adult I began to understand the importance the neighborhood pool played in my development as a person. The pool taught me how to play, an essential element in the development of interpersonal skills. It honed a competitive spirit while revealing how cooperation can create solutions to complex problems. It showed me that exercise and sports can be fun, exciting, and rewarding. To that list of positive attributes add resilience, independence, tenacity, and resourcefulness, and it is easy to see that a neighborhood pool is a crucible for personhood evolution.
I think this is why a few years ago, when I returned from an especially difficult deployment to Afghanistan, my neighborhood pool was one of the first places I visited. That day I spent a lot of time swimming underwater, where sounds, real and unreal, are muffled. Besides childhood memories and the gift of personhood, water to me symbolizes life and rebirth. There are hard things in war you cannot unsee or forget, but water helps to sooth the soul in a deeply elemental way.
And this is why it is so appropriate for pools to be dedicated as memorials to Veterans. In 1948, Memorial Field grounds, which included Memorial Pool, was dedicated “to the memory of those who gave their lives for the cause of liberty.” As a community, we cannot lose sight of that vision. I think of the friends and comrades I have lost in the past 35 years of my military service. I know they would want to be remembered in a place where memories are forged, where water and laughter and friendship come together in child play, recreation, and an exhilarating sense of freedom.
Donald Greengrass Sr. - Veteran & Ho-Chunk Representative:
I am Donald Greengrass, a member of the Ho Chunk Nation and 30-year community member of La Crosse. My concern for the Memorial pool is of tradition and memory. The veterans of this community only speak when an issue is important. This is important to me.
I have been to the pool with my family when my children were small, and they have grown up around the pool neighborhood. The memories we made and joy we had as a close family have kept our little family together. We walked to the pool and back from our home on North 24th street. I think back on those days now that our children are adults leading productive lives.
The pool has been there longer than I have been alive and continues to make memories for other families. The north-side and south-side pools are a drive for many to get to and are usually crowded on hot summer days. The Memorial Pool always had room and had that old reliable, safe feeling. The pool does need updating and new utilities, as do other
facilities in the city. Yes, some things need to be torn down but some things have a nostalgic feel that are worth preserving - like memorials such as Memorial Pool. This veteran is proud of that pool and would like to see a pool that resembles the safe and proud community we live in.
This pool needs to be updated, preserving that old pool feel where it is safe and comfortable for young and old from all walks of life, so new memories with neighbors, visitors and families can be made. The pool was strategically placed a long time ago to have community access for the surrounding neighborhood and schools. That still holds true today. The update would be a warm welcome to the neighborhoods. It would help revive the local businesses and give students another option for local activities while sharing it with long term residents
I am in support of helping the city and neighborhoods in restoring the pool to its former glory and bringing back new memories for all. Thank you, for your consideration of this important project.
Donald Greengrass, Sr.