People enjoy the Jan Ree community pool in northeast Salem during an open swim (Courtesy/Gary Moore)

Given the risk of drowning, Shirley Huntley wasn’t excited to learn a pool would be built bordering her backyard after she and her husband purchased a home for their family in the Jan Ree community in 1962. 

“When I heard they were building a pool I thought it would be the worst thing … but it ended up being the best thing that ever happened for our family,” said Huntley. 

Pools and water pose a huge liability and risk, especially if kids don’t learn to swim. Salem’s abundance of community pools, along with nonprofit and for profit fitness centers, pose an opportunity for families to learn water safety together and build lifelong memories.

Huntley fondly remembers spending time after her work as a receptionist at Winco with her three kids. 

“We had them in the water as toddlers, with life jackets of course, and they moved through the swim lessons, and summer swim team competitions,” said Huntley.

Two of her children now live along the Willamette River, and her youngest is a river guide.

“Some of their best memories were in the water at the pool,” Huntley said.

Salem features several community pools like Jan Ree, including Madrona Swim Club, Cambridge Pool, and Holiday Pool in Keizer. While most of these began with memberships tied to home titles or deeds, in the 1990s many opened up to allow membership purchases by families outside the neighborhood. 

Today, all offer nonmember options for swim lessons in the summer. 

Gary and Taryn Moore have been volunteering with Jan Ree Pool this spring preparing for its June 19 opening. 

They’re excited to see a return to swim lessons, private parties, and developing partnerships with McKay High School Swim team. 

“Covid has been tough on the pool as a nonprofit, and tough on kids overall,” Taryn Moore said. “We’re excited for opening day, for family BBQs and picnics. We provide a safe place for family fun.” 

The pool is staffed with paid lifeguards and will be open 1 p.m.-8 p.m. daily, with swim lessons offered in the mornings in two week sessions that meet daily. Swim Club runs for six weeks and competitions occur with other local clubs. 

In addition to community pools, the YMCA, Courthouse Club Fitness, Kroc Center, and Salem Swim and Tennis all offer swim lessons and clinics. 

The YMCA is unable to offer lessons in downtown Salem while their new building is being developed. But the club will have swim lessons at both their Independence and Silverton locations. 

Brandon Lemon, Chief Operations Officer at the Y, is excited about their upcoming “Splash Weeks” offered in June. Classes in Silverton begin June 7.

“For five dollars a week, kids can come play in the water, get used to it and staff can assess what type of swim lessons they might need,” he said. 

The Splash Weeks will be followed by opportunities to sign up for formal swim lessons and a swim clinic for kids to develop and refine their strokes. 

Caitlin Evenson, now a summer swim instructor at the Salem Swim and Tennis Club, has fond memories of learning to swim at the Y. 

“The teachers made it so I’d want to come to lessons. They were so much fun,” she said.  She’ll spend the summer lifeguarding and teaching before returning to Linfield College where she is a competitive swimmer. 

“I love being part of teaching the next generation to swim and enjoy water safely,” said Evenson. 

For additional information on pools and swim opportunities, check out the websites and links below.

Salem area pools

Jan Ree Pool 4372 41st Ave NE, Salem, Oregon 97305; 503-910-1926;

Madrona Swim Club Pool: 3464 Biegler Lane S, Salem OR 97302; 503-364-9992;

Cambridge Swim Association Pool: 1690 Boone Rd SE, Salem, OR 97306; (503) 378-7946

Holiday Swim Club Pool: 3868 5th Ave N, Keizer, OR 97303; 503-999-5205;

Salem Tennis & Swim Club: 4318 Lone Oak Rd SE, Salem, OR 97302; 503-363-2424; Email [email protected] for lesson information.

The Kroc Center: 1865 Bill Frey Lane, Salem OR 97301; 503-566-5762;

Family YMCA of Marion & Polk Counties: 870 North Main St. Independence OR 503-838-4042;

Courthouse Club Fitness: Locations in Battlecreek (503-364-9029); Lancaster (503-585-2582) Keizer(503-391-5220); West Salem (503-581-3171); South River Road (503-364-8463) 

Jeanine Stice is a freelance writer based in Salem. Contact her at [email protected]

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