It was standing-room-only at Tuesday’s special call meeting to discuss long-range planning in Marathon, including the need for a public pool. About 80 people filled the chamber at the Marathon Fire Station, and the crowd spilled into the hallway.

Radio personality Leigha Fox made a presentation on behalf of Friends of the Marathon Pool.

“We are a nonprofit with the intent of developing a plan and facilitating the construction and/or operation of this much-needed public facility,” she said.

The group envisions a pool with mixed benefits for both exercise and leisure. More importantly, it would generate revenue and be a “pay” pool.

Fox said possible sources of income range from swimming clubs for masters-age swimmers and school-age children, swimming lessons, aqua aerobics, dive training and more.

Although the drawings presented were based on the Marathon Manor property located next to the high school, with room left over for affordable housing, Fox said the group is open to putting the facility in other locations.

“This is the time to build a pool now that we have our sewers done and our city hall set,” she added.

Various members of the public spoke in support of the project including Dolphin Research Center’s Mandy Rodriguez. Patting his young grandchildren on the head, he said, “These are future Olympic swimmers. All they need is a place to practice.”

Raul Cisneros, owner of Keys Shuttle, also supports the project. He told the council he spent six years driving his son to practice in Islamorada.

Britt Irving also spoke.

“I spent most of my formative years staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool and am a 10-time state champ,” he said. “A public pool serves the entire community. It blows my mind that Marathon doesn’t have one. Also, college teams love to train in the Keys and that can be a big money maker for the pool.”

The council thanked the group for the presentation but stressed the need for more research on operating and construction costs.

“My kids swam at Cabana Club for many years. The real problem with a public swimming pool is how to pay for it. We need to partner with other groups and put something together,” said councilman Richard Keating.

Friends of the Marathon Pool agreed to suggest names for a fact-finding committee to work in partnership with city staff.

Editor Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes small and weird children (she has two); prefers target practice with a zombie rat poster; and looks best with saltwater dreads. Occasionally she tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.

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