Don Pearce moved to Maricopa in 1959 and soon after began helping with maintenance at the local Rotary Club’s new swimming pool.
“It was about the kids. I was here close, and if something happened I could go down,” said Pearce, who owned the NAPA Auto Parts store at the corner of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and State Route 347.
He still considers the Rotary pool his baby and wants it to reopen. It closed in 2014 when Copper Sky Regional Park opened its aquatic center.
When the city of Maricopa started talking about acquiring Rotary Park, including the pool, Pearce became worried the plan would be to fill in the pool that was built in 1958. That could be the case whether the property remains a park or is significantly altered by rerouted roadways for the overpass.
Back in 1958, John Smith and Fred Enke donated the land to the Rotary for the park and pool. If the property ceases to be used as a park, it reverts back to the Smith family.
“I would like to see the whole thing re-done,” Mary Lou Smith said. “It would serve a lot of people, not just the Heritage District. That’s a very nice area there; it would be an asset.”
She said people who could not go to Copper Sky, including those in subdivisions next to the Heritage District, would have a pool.
“I bet we taught over 2,000 kids to swim,” Pearce said of his years with Rotary. “I’ve got five daughters. All of them learned to swim in that pool. Two were lifeguards.”
He can wax nostalgic about the swimming pool, but his opposition to dismantling it is not about keeping a piece of history alive.
“The Maricopa Domestic Water [Improvement District] furnished the water for the pool free of charge,” Pearce said. “So the people that are paying the bill are the people in the Heritage District. They don’t feel like they should furnish the water for the park only and not have the swimming pool. They feel like they’re being short-changed.”
Since the pool’s closure, the city has adopted a new zoning code. A cost study for re-opening the pool under the new codes is pending. Early ballpark figures from City Hall are $500,000-$1 million. Pearce called that “ridiculous.”
He said he could gather a group of people who would willingly do the work and maintain the pool for free. It is an idea harkening back to the heyday of the Rotary Club, which started Stagecoach Days as a way to earn money before incorporation.
“The last year we ran it, we painted it, cleaned it up and got it ready,” Pearce said. “The city gave us $20,000. We ran the pool all summer, had at least 50 kids every day, and we gave them back some of that grant.”
He parted ways with the Rotary Club over the closing of the pool, among other things, but still wants to have a citizen’s voice as discussions begin between city officials and the Rotary Club. He said it should be about the children.
“These kids don’t have a way to get to Copper Sky,” he said. “I can’t even go on my scooter.”