pool

Talk all you want about summer’s “official” start, with the solstice on June 21. But, get real, everyone knows that the real first day of summer for those who most cherish the season — kids — happens at the precise moment that final school bell tolls.

By that calculation, then,

summer in Yakima starts Thursday afternoon.

Let the splashing and squealing, dunking and diving, begin at Franklin Pool — the city’s lone outdoor public pool, located in Central Yakima, adjacent to Franklin Middle School. (Yes, there is Lions Pool hard by Davis High School, near the city center, but, come on, who wants to swim indoors when the temperature is sizzling and the sun’s rays are chock full of Vitamin D?)

So, once again, residents of Yakima’s east-side neighborhoods — where there is the highest density of children, according to Census data — are going to have to find a way to catch a ride or ride their bike (risky in a city woefully bereft of bike lanes) to careen down the water slide and loll in lapping, chlorinated depths at Franklin.

Relief, however, is on the way for east-side youths (and those young at heart that want to swim al fresco). Plans are moving forward on a project to build an outdoor pool at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on South Eighth and East Beech streets.

When it all comes together — we’re not going to be negative and hedge by using “if,” though funding still needs to be worked out — kids and their parents will no longer have to schlep the 3 miles to seek

relief. Eventually, maybe even by next summer, some recreational equity will be served to residents in Yakima’s lower-income neighborhoods.

Sure, there already is a “splash park” at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and it’s nice and all, and offers a measure of cooling relief, but there’s nothing like an immersive plunge into icy water on a day hot enough to flambe your epidermis.

Residents have been clamoring for a pool in this sector of the city for close to a decade, after the Miller and Washington pools were shuttered due to an economic downturn. They were disappointed several years ago when the site for a new YMCA facility — with a public pool — was Chesterley Park, nearly 5 miles northwest of Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Though city and YMCA officials have talked about ways to transport east-side residents across town, perhaps with special bus routes, it’s still quite a haul for a family with young children.

Fortunately, the community did not give up. And, with outgoing councilwoman Dulce Gutierrez spearheading the effort, the quest

for an east side pool has proceeded from hope to idea to plans to blueprints.

East side folks have advocated for themselves throughout the process, and they cannot let up now. Today, the city is holding two “community input” meetings — 4 p.m. at the Henry Beauchamp Jr. Community Center, and 5:30 at Yakima City Hall — to unveil conceptual pool designs and gauge people’s reactions and elicit their ideas.

We encourage attendance at one of the meetings. The city needs to see that east side residents are fully investing in having a pool of their own.

Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Bob Crider and Sam

McManis.