BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With a population of nearly 1,900, Waterville was a small but growing village in 1963.
At the time, Ferd Seipel was a member of the Jaycees, a leadership organization for ages 18-40. The group was brainstorming on ways to benefit the community.
“Someone decided we should have a swimming pool,” he recalled. “We found a piece of property and got a bunch of guys together to start it.”
Those guys included his late brother, Harlan Reichle, who was mayor at the time, as well as restauranteur Howard Sams, John Keenan, Thomas Ludwig and Herb Wyandt, to name a few.
According to an April 5, 1963 article in The Anthony Wayne Standard, the estimated cost for the Olympic-sized pool, bathhouses, land and fencing was $110,000. That spring, the Fallen Timbers Family Recreation Club pool was under construction on 3.7 acres on Edgerton Drive. Memberships were sold, and in July 1963, the pool held its grand opening.
Soon, the club had the Frogs swim team, Koffee Klatch women’s group, Mermaids and plenty of social events every weekend.
“It worked well. All the kids around there had someplace to go in the summer,” recalled Seipel, who held the No. 16 membership for many years. “It was a big party place – a lot of fun.”
As the private club marks its 60th anniversary this year, its leadership is looking at the future, including plans for replacing the 60-year-old pool. Renderings by ScapeSketch’s Mark Pawlaczyk show a stainless steel-walled pool with a zero-entry side, waterslides and marked lanes for swim meets. The project would also include a pump room replacement.
Last year, FTFRC learned from State Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) that $275,000 was earmarked in the 2023 state budget for the pool replacement project, but club president Matt Pfleghaar said the increased costs for materials and labor have pushed the estimated cost up to over $2 million.
“We’re going to reapply for a larger amount in another cycle and look at other options,” Pfleghaar said. “The project is too big to ask the shareholders to pony up. The shareholders change with the seasons and future generations are going to enjoy it, so the burden shouldn’t fall on just the current shareholders.”
While the club is a private entity, it does offer swim and tennis lessons to the public for a fee – making it eligible for those state funds, as long as it has a public partner. The city of Waterville has agreed to partner in the project, as long as the pool would open to the public for certain hours each week. The city has not earmarked funds for the project.
In the meantime, the pool gets high ratings for water quality and safety, which is maintained by 15 to 20 lifeguards during the pool season of Memorial Day to Labor Day. The members work hard to keep the pool in the best shape possible, Pfleghaar said. Within the last decade, it’s received upgrades to the electrical pump and chlorinator as well.
“The pool is painted every year. It has more patchwork than a Michigan highway,” Pfleghaar joked.
To become a member of the FTFRC requires purchasing a share, which runs between $100 and $400, and $810 per season for unlimited use of the pool and tennis courts. Members are required to invest time into the club, volunteering to maintain the grounds, work the concession stand or staff the many events.
The cost is comparable to Brandywine Country Club, which doesn’t have tennis courts, Pfleghaar said. FTFRC has Har-Tru clay tennis courts, which are easier on the body than playing on pavement, he added.
A high school tennis player, Pfleghaar hadn’t played for a while but when he and his wife, Corina, bought their Cherry Lane home in 1986, they were given a club membership.
“It’s a great place. We’ve made a lot of friends playing tennis and enjoying the pool,” he said.
Many of the members have come through taking tennis lessons or having a child involved in the Fallen Timbers Frogs Swim Team.
Paula Kirby and her late husband, Mike, joined the pool after moving to Waterville in 1983.
“I lived on Cherry Lane and drove by the club entrance for days before I realized it was the driveway between two houses,” Kirby said, noting that a monument sign added in later years helped with visibility.
A lifelong swimmer who spent summers lifeguarding at Lakeside and Cedar Point Beach, Kirby had five children who took advantage of the pool and the Fallen Timbers Frogs Swim Team for ages 5-17.
In 1997, the summer after she began working as a school nurse for Anthony Wayne Local Schools, Kirby became the head coach. When her youngest daughter, Jillian, graduated and took over the head coach role, Kirby retired but was called back to assist a few years later. Now, her granddaughter Kate – a member of the first NLL-titled AWHS swimming and diving team – is the coach.
“I got sucked back into helping out with the coaching,” Kirby laughed. “I take all the new kids and get them started out.”
In 2009, the Frogs numbered 135, but membership dropped to 100 because of the impact of COVID-19 on the program. It is slowly building back up.
Jen Hildenbrand, Kirby’s daughter, jokes that her mom always told her that the family would have a pool by the time the grandkids were in high school. Instead, Kirby’s grandkids, including Kate and her sister Colleen, both learned to swim at FTFRC.
While the Frogs are in the pool in the mornings, the evenings and weekends are filled with activities, including themed parties, potlucks, euchre and cornhole tournaments, but mostly it’s a place for families to hang out in the summer.
“The first 90-degree day in May, the phone is ringing off the hook with people who want to buy shares,” Pfleghaar said. “We are limited by our special use permit to 350 families.”
Members can bring a guest for $10.00 a day, and that’s what FTFRC will likely charge when opening its new pool of the future to the public.
“I think opening to the public will happen. It’s good for the city and the club,” Pfleghaar said. “A lot of people don’t know we’re here, but once they get the flavor of it, they want to join.”
That’s what happened to Coti Klima, who serves as the secretary for the board of directors.
A Perrysburg High School teacher, Klima has summers off and often heads to the pool.
“I enjoy the sense of community here,” she said.
For more information on the pool, visit www.ftfrc.com.