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During a recent town hall meeting, Dennis Berkshire, President of Aquatics Design Group, addresses community members and the Ridgecrest Quality of Life Committee to discuss the Pinney Pool Aquatic Project. / Laura Austin Photo

City holds town hall Pinney Pool Aquatic Complex 

By Bruce Auld News  Review Contributor– 
If all goes well, demolition of the old Pinney Pool will commence by the end of 2023, with the new Pinney Pool coming online in early 2025. A well-attended town hall meeting was conducted on Tuesday before the Quality of Life Committee in the City Council chambers. The $12 million to $14 million “Pinney Pool Aquatic Complex” project is made possible by Measure P, a one-cent sales tax increase passed on November 8, 2022, with 55.22% voter approval.

Pinney Pool opened in 1972, replacing Ridgecrest’s Brewer Pool, and closed in 2017 due to maintenance issues and Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliance issues. Pinney Pool was the home of the City of Ridgecrest’s High Desert Swim Team (travel team) and the Sherman E. Burroughs High School swim team. Swimming is Burrough’s most successful athletic program, with four California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) state championships.

Community members participated in a town hall meeting Tuesday evening before the RC Quality of Life Committee. Consultants Dennis Berkshire, President of Aquatics Design Group, and Scott Gaudineer of Flewelling and Moody Architects were present to introduce the project and gather community input.
/ Laura Austin Photo

Although the town hall meeting was conducted this week, the planning process began in 2011 with a feasibility study concerning the condition and future of the existing Pinney Pool. Given the time’s resources, the facility’s modernization was not possible. Pinney Pool continued to serve the community until its ultimate closure in 2017. In 2021, the City went through an exhaustive grant proposal process, including substantial community input despite the limitations of pandemic restrictions, to obtain $8.5 million to rebuild the pool. Unfortunately, the funding still needs to be realized. Upon the passage of Measure P, the City of Ridgecrest conducted an online Facebook survey regarding priorities for the aquatic complex, with 410 surveys completed. The town hall meeting represents the beginning of the design process.

Dennis Berkshire, President of Aquatics Design Group, and Scott Gaudineer of Flewelling and Moody Architects were on hand to introduce the project and gather community input. Both Berkshire and Gaudineer have over forty-years-experience in their respective fields. Both have extensive experience with projects in locations with extremes in climate. Once arriving at the meeting, this writer was unaware of the consultants selected by the City of Ridgecrest. While working on school construction projects, I became familiar with Berkshire and Gaudineer and had full confidence in their respective firm’s capabilities.

The new Pinney Pool Aquatics Complex will replace the existing Pinney Pool and use existing utilities at considerable savings to the project. Although an outdoor facility, it will operate in all seasons. Likely, there will be several individual components, such as a warm therapy/exercise pool, a rectangular pool for competitive swimming, water polo, community lap sessions, water safety instructor training, general recreational swimming, and a smaller baby pool. Yet, with continued community and expert input, the final design will continue to evolve. The new Pinney Pool Aquatic Complex will complement the existing splash pad. 

Community members presented well-thought-out suggestions regarding senior citizen access, shade, maintenance and operations funding, safe access from Freedom Park across Warner street, water conservation, use of solar shade structures to generate electricity for pool operations and pool heating, wind mitigation, competition timing systems, and safety/security concerns.

In the mid to late 1970s, Ridgecrest dominated Kern County in per capita aquatics participation. The two age group traveling teams of six to eighteen-year-olds boasted a combined 300 swimmers. Another 500 4 -12 grade students received five weeks of swim and water safety training. Some 200 first through third-grade students received Red Cross Water Safety Instructors Association “assembly-line” beginning swimming instruction. In all, about 1,000 Ridgecrest youth received expert instruction in aquatics each year.

In 1972, this writer was recruited to coach the City of Ridgecrest’s High Desert Swim Team and the Sherman E. Burroughs High School swim team in its first CIF-sanctioned season. Pinney Pool was, at that time, a “state of the art” pool. I look forward with great anticipation to the new Pinney Pool with all its current state-of-the-art efficiencies. It’s been a long journey, but well worth the trip.