It’s the outdoor space that has kept its country charm and stood the test of time in a growing City of Rockingham. But as the Rockingham Aquatic Centre (RAC) gears up for its 50th anniversary celebration on February 25, long-time swimmer Helen Nation revealed this milestone almost didn’t happen. After being a regular patron of the local outdoor pool for some years, Ms Nation said about 12 years ago she heard whisperings that the centre might be knocked down to make way for residential dwellings. She immediately sprang into action. “I’m a doer and I went around to all the schools who used the facilities — which was around 16 at the time — and the principals all gave me letters saying they would be devastated if the pool closed,” she said. “We fought and with the help of (now mayor) Deb Hamblin, who was a councillor at the time, we managed to save it.” Ms Nation said the petition they put out received 1400 signatures from pool users alone. Premier Mark McGowan also stepped in as a local who used the Aquatic Centre with his family, giving Ms Nation a letter of support. Ms Hamblin said the RAC was undeniably part of the Rockingham fabric. “I moved here in 1978 and this pool has been part of my life. I brought my kids here, then my grandchildren and it really has added a lot to us as a city,” she said. “At one stage the city did look at a proposal to knock it down and use it for residential land and I just felt it would be a huge disservice to our community to lose a beautiful outdoor space like this. Thankfully the city agreed and we’ve managed to keep it. “When you look around and see just how many people still use it, it’s just incredible. To be able to celebrate 50 years is monumental.” Former military man Keith Howe decided to complete his lifeguard course when he was 50 and has been patrolling the pools ever since. “This is my 13th season; I used to come here and swim a lot and they were looking for staff and they said ‘why don’t you work here?’ and I thought ‘OK, I’ll get to swim for free’,” he said with a laugh. “It’s just a great atmosphere, it’s an awesome place to work and as soon as you walk in you go ‘wow, it’s like an oasis’.” Manager Matt Lewis said the aquatic centre would turn back the clock and celebrate the 50th anniversary in true 70s style. “The entry fee will be 10 cents for children and 20 cents for adults, we’ll have 70s music playing all day, inflatables in the pool for the kids to enjoy, food trucks and the mayor will make a short speech,” he said. “We’re hoping to see people discover or rediscover the centre and get a new generation of people to come and enjoy the place for the next 50 years.” For more information about the anniversary event, visit rockingham.wa.gov.au.