On Saturday, the public is invited to test the waters at the Haines pool during Splash-O-Rama. It’s a free event aimed to boost support for the aging facility. Swimmers old and young, experienced or not, are encouraged to attend for a lesson, a relaxing dip, or even just a free snack. KHNS’s Jillian Rogers has the details.

The pool in Haines is 34 years old, and, over the years, has served many useful purposes. It has taught youngsters their first strokes, offered a training ground for the local swim team, and is a welcome reprieve from wintry days. The event on Saturday is hosted by Friends of the Pool, the Haines Borough and the Haines Dolphins Swim Team and starts at 10 a.m. with a fun meet. Dolphins coach Lauren Rutland says the meet in the morning is definitely not competitive.

“The first thing is the fun swim meet and it will have events like T-shirt relays and noodle races … it’s for everybody,” she says. “There’s going to be a parent-child race, where parents race against their children, so we definitely encourage parents to come. That’s going to run until about noon.”

After that is an hour of free swim before lessons start at 1 p.m. Lessons are divided into kids and adult groups. Even those who swim often or competitively can get tips on form and technique.

“People who are either uncomfortable in the water and need some tips, or want some tips for triathlon, or whatever. We’ll have signups for that starting at 10.”

After the lessons, it’s more free-swim until 4.

Rutland says trying to garner support and users isn’t just about fun. Learning how to swim and taking part in water-safety courses should be a priority for everyone. Especially in a coastal, fishing town, she says.

“I think it’s extremely important,” Rutland says. “I don’t understand how people can grow up not knowing how to swim. Everybody learns how to ride a bike, but that’s not a life skill, that’s perk. I don’t think not teaching your kids to swim is a good idea. I think it’s just asking for trouble – especially here.”

Tom Morphet is one of the founders of Friends of the Pool. The15-member  group got off the ground this fall with the goal of supporting the facility by drumming up support and facilitating repairs. The pool has an aluminum hull, possibly the last of its kind in the state, and so it requires more regular maintenance than the newer models.

“The pool has been targeted to a certain extent for cuts in the past, and we are there to show that there is support for the pool in the community, and to remind people of all the things that the pools does for the community,” Morphet says.

He says they want to continue this free celebration every year around the pool’s birthday, which falls during the last week of April.

“It’s a day of free activities at the pool and we’re going to start by honoring people in our community who have saved lives through swimming. But the reason this pool was built was to save lives and it’s doing that, it is doing that function and that’s why we want to start with recognition of lifesavers.”

Festivities start at 10 a.m. on Saturday.