Philomath Community Pool Over $700K Gift From Benton Community Foundation

Philomath Dolphins 1968 cropped
Photo Courtesy: Mary C. Derr

The Benton Community Foundation today announced that they are giving $734,000 from the Philomath Community Pool Fund to the Clemens Community Pool. This transformational gift will fund essential repairs and upgrades needed to keep the pool open and operating for another decade. At almost 60 years old, the facility is near the end of its lifespan. Without this influx of funds, this community resource would have been forced to close its doors in the coming months and Philomath would be without a community pool.

The funds for this gift come from an endowment established 25 years ago by Leonard Nitka and Kitty Nitka. The Nitkas established the Philomath Community Pool Fund with the express intent to preserve and support a community pool for Philomath and surrounding rural communities.

With the Benton Community Foundation’s stewardship, the Nitka family’s investment has provided critical support for annual operations while steadily increasing in value. Because of this growth, the Foundation can now make this significant one-time gift to keep the pool open. The gift is also intended to serve as a catalyst for the community to develop a long-term solution for maintaining an aquatic community resource in the area.

“This gift illustrates how the Foundation works on behalf of local donors to support the programs and issues closest to their hearts,” said Chris Quaka, President and CEO of the Benton Community Foundation. “For almost 60 years, the Philomath pool has been a treasured resource for the residents of rural Benton County. With this gift, the pool can continue to serve as a place for children to safely learn to swim and for people of all ages to socialize, exercise, and build community.”

The Clemens Community Pool was built in 1960 with a generous donation from Rex and Ethel Clemens, beloved local philanthropists. Located at the city’s high school, the pool is owned and operated by the Philomath School District. Now almost 60 years old, the pool is in dire need of major renovations and repairs. The Philomath School Board earlier this year faced the difficult decision to close the pool if no significant new source of funding was found by January 2019.

Rex and Ethel Clemens cropped

Rex and Ethel Clemens; Photo Courtesy: Mary C. Derr

Improvements to the pool will likely include installing a new filtrations system and pool liner, resurfacing the pool deck and repairing cracks, and replacing the original, 58-year-old locker room tiles and showerheads. The renovation will also improve lighting at the pool and create a more inviting space for swimmers and spectators alike.

“The Philomath schools are very grateful for this gift,” said Melissa Goff, Superintendent of the Philomath School District. “The pool provides immeasurable educational value to our city’s children, who walk to the pool for swimming lessons during their school day. It gives kids a purpose during those important after-school hours, and it fosters a community of competent lifelong swimmers. With this influx of funds from the Foundation’s pool fund, we can keep the facility operating while using the next decade to develop a plan for the future of aquatics in Philomath.”

People of all ages from Philomath, Alsea and outlying rural areas take advantage of this community resource. In addition to the swim classes offered through the schools, the pool offers numerous community programs such as parent-baby and aerobics classes.

Ironman world champion-level athlete, Evan Evanson, currently preparing for the Kona Ironman in Hawaii, has been swimming at the Clemens Community Pool for 30 years. Sean Hines, a Special Olympian headed to the 2019 world games, trains at this pool. Carol Leach, a former swim team coach and pool director who currently serves on the pool advisory committee, watched the concrete for the pool being poured and took a swim on opening day, Dec. 26, 1960.

“This pool is a common theme that runs through our community and connects us – it’s truly a hub of the greater Philomath community,” said Ellen Luke, Pool Director. “Babies, people with physical or mental disabilities, senior citizens – they all use the pool for exercise and recreation. Our planet is covered with water. Do we want to sit on the edge because we don’t know how to swim?”

Drowning is one of the top five causes of death in every age range, according to the Center for Disease Control. The Clemens family were spurred to establish the pool in Philomath because every year, a few children were drowning in logging ponds. Public pools became widespread in the 1930s when the Work Projects Administration built 750 “New Deal” pools – many of them next to schools – and remodeled hundreds more. Nevertheless, it is rare for a community of Philomath’s size to have its own public pool.

Although the Philomath Community Pool Fund was established by one generous family, anyone can contribute to this endowment. The fund will continue to support the pool’s operations for the next ten years, its projected lifespan. Substantial support from the community will be needed to build a new facility.

The above press release was posted by Swimming World in conjunction with the Benton Community Foundation. For press releases and advertising inquiries please contact