Third try’s a charm for Paulden Plunge

Summer swim bus program carries 400 to Chino Aquatic Center

Yavapai Regional Transit dropping kids off at the Chino Valley Aquatic Center last summer.

Photo by Ken Sain.

Yavapai Regional Transit dropping kids off at the Chino Valley Aquatic Center last summer.

photo

Splashing and playing in one of the many water features at the Chino Valley Aquatic Center in Chino Valley. (File)

After two years of low ridership on Yavapai Regional Transportation’s “Paulden Plunge” bus route, board chairman Ron Romley said this year, they carried about 400 riders to and from the swimming facility.

The service operates during June and July, and Romley said, “within the first two weeks, we hauled more kids to the pool than we did the entire last year and year before.”

The key to the change? Sponsorships that paid for the rides and the pool admission fee.

That money paid the $1 round-trip bus fare and the $2.50 to get into the Aquatic Center.

The Paulden Plunge service was developed after YRT officials “went to the (Paulden Area Community Organization) meetings, and we got to talking with the Paulden people about what we could do.

“The biggest thing was, during the summer, the kids had no place to really go,” Romley said.

“It gives (kids) activity out of the home. There’s not much activity here in Paulden,” Said Terri McPherson of PACO and the Paulden Foundation. “There’s no parks or any resources … so it gives them a lot of physical activity.”

But the ridership over the last two years was low, with buses sometimes completely empty.

YRT was considering ending the service after last year’s dismal performance, but decided to see if the sponsorship plan would work.

This year was different. “We are so happy,” he said. “We had several kids on the bus tell us that this was the first time they’d ever been to a public pool.”

McPherson agreed. “There was a lot more participation,” which she attributed to the no-cost nature of the service. “It helps the parents with the cost,” she said. “So it’s a great program for the kids.”

The Town of Chino Valley kicked in $1,500 to cover the costs of running the buses; last year, the town gave YRT $1,000, but it cost the bus company $1,600, “so Yavapai Regional Transit ate the $600,” Romley said.

Chino Valley Mayor Darrell Croft said the town is happy to support its neighboring community.

“We want to have as many kids at our swimming pool as possible,” he said. “Most of the folks who live out in Paulden also spend money in Chino. They buy groceries in Chino, they buy gas, so they’re also part of our citizens, too.”

Croft added that he was looking forward to Romley’s report to the town council, which he was scheduled to deliver Tuesday, Aug. 8, after the deadline for this edition.