(Talk of the Town graphics provided)
Artist's renderings, above and below, show the proposed aquatics facility that the City of Columbia City and the Columbia City Parks Department have launched a fundraising campaign to build.
By Jennifer Zartman Romano
With the Burnworth Pool lacking heat and continuing to limp along in what has been called it's final year, the City of Columbia City and the Columbia City Parks Department continue to look at options to replace it.
Recently, volunteers close to the project established a fund through the Community Foundation of Whitley County to help collect donations to assist in the construction of a new aquatics facility to replace Burnworth Pool in the same location.
On Monday, utilizing social media, the City of Columbia City and the parks department began soliciting donations through a personalized brick fundraising campaign.
A new aquatics facility for Columbia City is estimated to cost approximately $3.5 to $4 million according to Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel. And while that figure looms large -- local residents are hopeful it can be raised through the gifts of many. For $75, supporters can purchase a brick that Daniel said would be used in the construction of a pathway to the facility. "The final positioning of the bricks is yet to be determined, but it will be a prominent position at the facility," Daniel assured.
"We started selling bricks today that people can purchase with their names on them," Columbia City Parks Department director Mark Green regarding the fundraiser. "These bricks will be placed outside the entrance of the new aquatic facility when it is built. Our goal is to sell 500 bricks, so we will see how that goes."
Daniel and Green are optimistic that the funds needed for the project can be raised through the brick fundraiser, larger private gifts and through grant funding. In many ways, they're leaving no stone unturned in the effort.
"We are trying to raise it all with donations," Green said. "We hope there is enough community support to fund the project."
In addition to the bricks, Green said there will be more options to support the project.
"If anyone is interested in making a larger, more significant sized, donation we have several opportunities to name the equipment that will be inside the water park. They would just need to contact me at the park office to discuss that possibility," Green added.
Looking outside Whitley County, organizers are optimistic that the project might be supported through a large grant and other initiatives.
"Next week could prove to be an important week for us as we look forward to hearing back from one of the grants that we applied for a few months ago. It is possible that we could receive a large matching grant very soon," Green continued. "This aquatic facility is also a Regional Cities project, so once we achieve around 80 percent of the funding needed, we can ask for help from the Regional Cities funding in hopes to complete the fundraising."
As for when the project might begin, officials aren't clear.
"This really depends on money," said Daniel. "If we can get fundraising to ramp up over the next few months, we can break ground at the start of 2017." But, even if the project got started soon, it could take over a year to construct.
It's a big dream for Whitley County -- but a dream that many seem to share.
"There is an overwhelming amount of vocal support for this project. Families, older citizens, and certainly kids have all become excited for this great quality of life amenity," stated Daniel.
"From what I have heard from several people, they are very excited about the possibility of having an aquatic facility like this in Columbia City," Green continued. "We believe it can make a large economic improvement to our community and give our local families a great time to spend time together during the warm months."
Donations in any amount will be accepted and Green and Daniel agree that there are other ways residents can assist as well.
"Certainly monetary donations are the biggest assistance we need in the process. Promoting the project to friends and family on social media is a great way to spread the word," said Daniel.
For more information on the aquatics facility brick fundraiser, contact Mark Green at 248-5180 or visit http://www.fundraisingbrick.com/columbiacity