The city of Yelm has experienced a spurt of population growth and with it comes the need for new infrastructure to accommodate the growth.
At a South Thurston Economic Development Initiative meeting on Oct. 21, Yelm Mayor Joe DePinto spoke about some proposed plans for the city, which include a new YMCA complex with an indoor pool.
DePinto told the Nisqually Valley News the proposal dates back to 2015 when he initially ran for city council. He received feedback from Yelm residents when he was campaigning door-to-door and asking them about their needs.
“Overwhelmingly people had asked for a swimming pool. I understood the logistics and operational costs and liability a city would be responsible for and decided a third party would be the best approach and the YMCA was a perfect fit,” DePinto stated in an email.
He began to talk with South Sound YMCA President Kyle Cronk about a YMCA in the city but ran into a roadblock as he waited for Yelm to pass a school bond.
“Part of the YMCA’s business model, from my understanding, is that they do not attempt to build a branch in a city that doesn’t pass school bonds and levies,” DePinto said.
In 2019, the school construction bond was approved, but even though he was a city councilor, DePinto had to wait until he was the mayor to really push for the YMCA.
Cronk said there’s a group of seven or eight volunteers in the community that are interested in exploring what a YMCA might look like along with the different financing options.
“Everything is very preliminary but it’s very exciting to talk about,” Cronk said.
Cronk emphasized that whatever would be built will be focused on the community’s needs.
“My only request is that the Yelm branch YMCA would include an indoor pool,” DePinto said.
A pool, whether it is an indoor or outdoor facility, is a necessity in the area, Cronk said.
“Even in the Olympia, Shelton, Lacey and Tumwater markets there’s not enough spots for kids to swim. Every pool that we have is 100% full all the time. It’d be great to get a swimming option in Yelm,” Cronk said.
According to DePinto, the volunteer exploratory committee will look at funding options, as well as possible locations and services that would be offered. In his talks with Cronk, DePinto said some of the other services at a YMCA in Yelm could include an urgent care center, a senior center, child care and after-school programs, though those would require other partners to get involved with the project.
“I do want to stress this is all from my own discussions which do not represent the intentions or views of any other organizations. We are finalizing the committee and will likely have our first meeting in December,” DePinto said.
A new possible YMCA isn’t the only thing DePinto has in mind for Yelm as the city continues to grow. He stated the city had been planning and budgeting for new potential growth.
“One example is the renovation of our water treatment plant that will accommodate growth into the 2040s and be simple to build out for future growth,” DePinto said.
Another example is the city’s current efforts to procure property near Longmire Park in order to address the “horrendous” lack of parking in the area for the many people who attend youth sports there.
DePinto stated downtown Yelm also needs more parking spots since the city is hosting larger events and seeing more visitors who utilize the shops and services. The nearby Yelm City Park could use more parking too, he added.
“To that end, we are likely to pave a parking lot on city property in the downtown area as a short term solution but will be considering a parking garage in the longer term,” DePinto said.
Yelm residents have also asked for a dog park, according to DePinto. He added the dog park the city is currently considering will be funded through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
The dog park would be a welcome addition to Yelm residents who live in apartments and houses with little to no yard space.
“This will be our first dog park and it’s going to be really nice thanks to a CDBG which will fund the project at over $500,000 and allows us to utilize local taxpayer dollars elsewhere,” DePinto said.
New parks and parking lots aren’t the only things DePinto has in mind to accommodate Yelm’s growth. At the South Thurston Economic Development Initiative meeting he mentioned the city also plans to focus on improving public safety resources and increasing the budget for mental health programs.