A Round-Up of Local Pools

Photos by Paige Green Photography

Our bodies were designed for swimming. I’ve been telling my kids this since they were old enough to know what water is. As a lifelong swimmer and lover of the water, I am admittedly biased—though most medical experts and physical training enthusiasts agree that swimming may just be the best exercise out there, thanks to its naturally low impact on, and engagement of, the entire body. Of course, for my kids, who care nothing about exercise, swimming is just plain fun. So, in honor of our favorite thing about summer (aside from drippy ice cream), I bring you Made Local’s first Swim Feature.

We are blessed with many public pools in Sonoma County, most of them ADA accessible with either pool ramp and/or wheelchair lift. Swim lessons, recreation swim, lap swim, group water fitness classes, or just lounging with a cool beverage poolside—the offerings are extensive. Affordable day-use passes cost anywhere from $1 (seriously!) to $9. In addition to the ones listed here, you can find public pools in Petaluma, Sonoma, Windsor, and Rohnert Park, which has three.

Read on for a shallow dive into a few of our favorites. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

The Children’s Paradise:


None of the local high schools have their own pools, so in 1958 they built Ridgway to serve that need, which it continues to do today. Competitive swim team Neptunes also holds their practices in the 25-yard, nine-lane pool several times a week. A revamp in 2001 resulted in the popular 140-foot curvy water slide and shallow water play area with sprinklers and dumping buckets, likely one of the big reasons that this pool always fills to capacity before its cousin, Finley. The bleachers provide respite for those who don’t want to crowd around the pool’s perimeter. If you’re craving something sweet afterwards, find both ice cream and frozen yogurt within walking distance at Yogurt Farms.

455 Ridgway Avenue, Santa Rosa

The Party Pool:


Plush lounge chairs and round daybeds surround the vast four-foot-deep pool, the perfect depth to groove to some tunes while holding your drink aloft. Rent a daybed or cabana for maximum relaxation, dip into the large hot tub when you get chilly, order snacks and drinks poolside from the friendly bar staff, and pretend like you have nothing more to do than let the sun warm your skin. Check their website for summer music and events, and leave the kiddos behind. 21+.

288 Golf Course Drive West, Rohnert Park

The Chill Zone:


Built in 1993, Finley has a bigger footprint than Ridgway, with a large pool and separate, L-shaped shallower pool that never gets deeper than 4 feet, or cooler than a therapeutic 85 degrees, perfect for kids learning to swim (both of mine took first treads there). Both a pool ramp and wheelchair ramp make the large pool accessible to all. We love to set up our blanket on the grassy area, where patches of shade (and usually a familiar face or two) can always be found. The snack bar, like Ridgway’s, sells ice cream, candy, chips, and soda.

2060 West College Avenue, Santa Rosa

The County’s Oldest:


Built in 1941 with the help of a $20k donation from a local woman, Ives uses salt-based chlorine in their big pool, separated into shallow and deep with a walkway. Like Santa Rosa’s Don Hicks (see sidebar on page 36), aquatics director Ricardo Freitas grew up swimming in a country with ample coastline. In Portugal, he became an ocean lifeguard at 16 and then went on to compete as a professional water polo player for 10 years. From the Bay to Lake Sonoma, he enjoys long, cold swims, clad in wet suit and goggles. In addition to the usual offerings, Ives also has water polo classes and underwater hockey groups. Situated right in the middle of Ives Park, with its big playground and within walking distance to downtown Sebastopol, you can easily make a day of it.

7400 Willow Street, Sebastopol

The Hidden Gem:


This quiet little oasis has it all: a 25-meter, eight-lane pool with diving board and small water slide, a sloped-entry training pool for the little ones, plenty of shaded grassy area for lounging, poolside benches, and super friendly staff. In our experience, this pool is rarely crowded, though that could change with their new Dollar Days on the weekends: only $1 admission for up to five family members during rec swim. Bring snacks and books, and plan to         stay awhile.

360 Monte Vista Avenue, Healdsburg

The StayCation Destination:


The resort community of Rio Nido occupies just one-tenth of a square mile. Tucked into the redwoods just off River Road, the popular Roadhouse is the perfect pit stop to fuel up on your way to or from the coast, but the lovely swimming pool (for patrons only) makes it a destination all its own. Surrounded by a big lawn and shaded picnic tables, the pool does get popular, so best to arrive early to snag a spot. For 14 years, through flooding and fires, owners Raena and Brad Jones Metzger have continued to serve classic pub fare, craft cocktails, and mostly locally brewed beers on tap.

14540 Canyon 2 Road, Rio Nido


Don Hicks, outgoing Supervisor of Aquatics for the City of Santa Rosa

“A good lifeguard never stops moving their head,” says Don Hicks. “They’re always scanning.”

He should know. As a cocky teenage lifeguard in Adelaide, Australia, Hicks saved an unconscious three-year-old girl from drowning in a local pool. After she threw up all over him, he wasn’t so cocky anymore—but he was keen to learn more about life-saving techniques.

Decades later, Hicks has competed in scores of life-guarding and open-water competitions, Iron Man-like feats whereby people run, swim, and paddle into the ocean, sometimes on narrow rescue boards. He taught biology, health science, and outdoor ed Down Under until landing in Santa Cruz in 1982 to run a youth Olympic camp. After four years of avoiding winter by commuting back and forth between Australia and California to work summers in each hemisphere, he relocated permanently.

“We’re fortunate to live in a community that values swimming and wants to keep costs down,” says Hicks, who retires on July 10 from 22 years in his role as aquatics supervisor. Clearly a people person, with dancing eyes and a quick smile, Hicks is attuned to the flesh and blood consequences of his work. When it was suggested that the pools become seasonal, closed in the winter, Santa Rosa residents swarmed the city council in protest, he tells me. He loves watching people discover that beyond lean muscle, swimming also builds character and self-esteem.

“I like to hire people who are smarter than me,” says Hicks, recounting various former employees who’ve gone on to become an FBI agent, a robotics engineer at NASA, a judge in New York. The Santa Rosa aquatics permanent staff of six swells to 120 during the summer to service the uptick in visitors—48 thousand annually for recreation swim alone.

With too many private pools to name, a few memorable ones stand out:

Love its sloped entrance and proliferate picnic tables:

Parkpoint in Healdsburg

Love its welcoming vibes and friendly people:                

R3 Hotel in Guerneville

Love its resort ambiance and giant hot tub:                   

The Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa


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