Laura Slayton’s daughter Phoebe gets a swim lesson from Samantha Hagerthy-Schneider. Photo by Kristi Rubio

Celebrating its 50th year, Cordova’s Bob Korn Memorial Pool will be receiving improvements this summer. 

A new pool liner is set to be installed late July of this year, with hopefully minimal downtime. The last liner was installed in 2012, and they have about a 10-year lifespan. 

Water safety is a fundamental skill, says Cordova Parks and Recreation director Duncan Chrisholm. It is a public pool and with that comes a diverse group of swimmers. Over 10,000 visits were recorded during 2023. 

“It is a community service, a public good — so the intent is to minimize cost to the patron,” says Chrisholm. “We want our facilities to be seen as a third place; home, work, recreation. The pool is an expensive but fundamental operation.” 

Chrisholm arrived in Cordova in July 2021 with a background in local government and parks and recreation, although the main purpose was to relocate to be near family.  

Samantha Hagerthy-Schneider, the pool operations leader, arrived in Cordova in the summer of 2022. Although her background wasn’t in the industry, her daughter was a competitive swimmer throughout school and has experienced many pools in the Lower 48. Experience has guided Hagerthy-Schneider, but she says her main drive is safety.  


She is now able to offer in-house lifeguard certification, which is good for two years, and has also been offering in-service monthly training to keep local lifeguards active if they choose to participate. The schedule is adjusted month-to-month, linked to traffic the pool sees at various times throughout the day.  

Hagerthy-Schneider was motivated to meet the community in a healthy space and recognized room for growth and improvement at the pool.  

In the 1970s there was a boom, with many pools being built across rural Alaska. Many pools face similar challenges that the Bob Korn pool is facing today — grants and funding have declined, putting pool maintenance at a minimum. Community members voiced the need for a new pool, but first Parks and Rec must implement a plan, says Chrisholm. He started to create data to gain information on the number of users and traffic that was being seen each day at the pool.  

Many parts of Parks and Rec infrastructure in Cordova are at the end of their life, so a goal is to create a vision and implement a plan for the whole town. 

Uncommon for most municipalities, the Cordova pool and the fitness facility are in separate locations. The two collaborate often, hoping to build a system that is seen as one department offering quality programs with appropriate certification. 

Hagerthy-Schneider states, “Duncan was proactive about getting the right people to do the job.” 

Parks and Recreation has created a 20-year masterplan — the city has 13 different venues they manage under the Parks and Rec umbrella. Everyone’s voice needs to be heard, even if it is not a popular opinion, says Hagerthy-Schneider. A public survey is on the horizon and will be used to assess what the community members’ wants are, as well as help create a vision where the city sees itself moving into the future. 

“Industry best practice is to do a yearly shutdown, so this will be a great opportunity to look at jets, the aluminum shell and other things that the maintenance crew cannot inspect otherwise,” says Chrisholm. “Just having a general contractor is not enough, as is evident with the pool shutdown in Barrow. In Nome, the pool has been out of commission for a year due to mishaps in renovations.” 

There is currently one full-time position available at the pool. Staffing has been the biggest issue from season to season.  

The department is building slowly, wanting to maintain best industry practices, says Chrisholm. Currently there are 30-minute swim lessons for infants followed by a toddler swim class every Wednesday for six weeks.  

“We also recognize a need for adult swim classes and hope to make that a priority in the future,” Hagerthy-Schneider said. “I am always learning and open to feedback. My desire is to stay and continue to invest in the pool so that standards, safety and upgrades can be put into place.”

This story was originally published in the March 29 issue of The Cordova Times.