Girls picket for Enterprise swimming pool

Youngsters Audrey Harshman (left) and Brittney Duquette are protesting the lack of a swimming pool in Wallowa County. Photo by Rocky Wilson

Two 11-year-old girls from Enterprise are tired of not having a public swimming pool in Wallowa County and, with encouragement from their parents, have set out to do something about it.

Soon to be sixth graders Audrey Harshman and Brittney Duquette began their protest by making signs and picketing before the county courthouse in Enterprise last Sunday. Their signs read "We want our swimming pool back!!!!!!" and "Beep if you want our pool!!!!!!" Many drivers along Hwy. 82 honked their horns and encouraged the girls with the thumbs up sign.

The two said they were a little shy about their public exposure and often covered their faces with the hand painted signs.

At some juncture they were approached by Wallowa County sheriff's deputy Dan Courtney who encouraged them to direct their protest toward city hall and not the county courthouse, because the city owns the pool which was effectively mothballed after the summer of 2001. The pool is in disrepair and studies on possible restoration have put the cost of repairing the facility at a prohibitive level. It would cost as much or more to repair the Enterprise city pool than to build a new one.

On Monday the two girls took their protest to city hall where they met with City Administrator Michele Young. She explained the situation, including the financial unfeasibility of repairing the pool the two girls learned to swim in. From that conversation the girls understood that the best opportunity to return a swimming pool to Wallowa County would be to raise some $100,000 and place the pool at the county fairgrounds. Young said later that the Wallowa County Fair Board has made such an overture.

Such obstacles would have proved to be a dead end for most adults, let alone 11-year-old children, but Audrey Harshman and Brittney Duquette were committed to their cause and began going door-to-door in Enterprise soliciting funds for a new pool. By Friday morning they had collected $277 which they dutifully turned over to Young at city hall.

Young is excited about the exuberance of the two girls and thinks their energy could catch hold with other children in Wallowa County. She thinks that a county-wide pool is the most realistic approach and hopes that youth in Wallowa, Lostine and Joseph will get involved.

With the help of mother Rosa Duquette, the two girls are taking a form with them which they fill out for anyone who wishes to donate to the cause, be it through pledge, cash or check. The form is signed by the donor and returned with the money to city hall where Young will see that each gift is recorded and a tax deductible receipt is mailed out. A bank account is being opened at Pioneer Bank with the promise that every donated dollar will be returned if the new pool does not come to fruition.

If any are interested they may phone Young at 426-4196 to receive pledge forms and get additional information.

By Friday the two had knocked on some 25 Enterprise doors and received donations from 15. Audrey Harshman says that they intend to mail thank you cards to everyone who donates toward the pool, and possibly two thank you's and some chocolate to Gladys Courtney who pledged $200.

Both girls learned to swim in the public Enterprise pool and expressed concern about younger kids who are missing out on the opportunity of learning how to swim.

Wallowa Lake offers some swimming opportunities for county youth, but only late in the summer when the water becomes less than frigid.

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