‘Stick Up for the Kids’

‘Stick Up for the Kids’

Supporters of Shadowood Pool galvanized by closure talks.

With a broad smile, Jackie Benton remembered a day at the pool three years ago when the lifeguards called all the children and parents into the pool for a game of water polo.

“It was so much fun,” said Benton, 17, who has spent more than half her life enjoying the waters at Shadowood Pool. “I’ve been coming here since I was eight.”

But now Benton’s neighborhood pool is under siege and she can’t figure out why.

“The only problems we’ve ever had here are maintenance problems,” said Benton, who is in her second year as a lifeguard at Shadowood.

She can’t imagine a better amenity than the pool, especially for children. “The majority of people in this area who come here are kids, 13 and under,” said Benton, standing at the front counter as more than 30 children from Reston Association’s Day Camp splashed and swam in the pool behind her.

Benton said closing the pool would really affect local children. “Where else are [the children] going to go?” she said. She’s upset by the possibility her childhood pool might one day disappear.

“Stick up for the kids,” said Benton, aiming her comment to those who are considering the pool for closure. “This is a great pool.”

LAST WEEK, the Reston Association’s Parks and Recreation Planning Committee split 4-4 in a vote to recommend that Shadowood be kept open, just moments after unanimously voting to recommend that another pool targeted for closure, Tall Oaks Pool, be kept open.

Vicky Wingert, a committee member who missed the meeting, will hold the tie-breaker assuming other members don’t change their minds in the coming months.

Supporters of Shadowood pool who attended the meeting remain flummoxed by the committee’s vote. Is their support for their local pool not as meaningful as the support shown by Tall Oaks supporters, they’ve asked.

The vote on Shadowood was preliminary, said Jim Kirby, chair of the parks and recreation committee. Last week Kirby voted against recommending that the pool stay open. “I voted that way because we haven’t discussed that pool enough,” he said. “My feeling is we need to get more input from the Shadowood people.”

To remedy that concern, the committee plans to schedule a public hearing in the fall located in the Shadowood area to hear from residents.

“We might find it’s a matter of sprucing up the pool that’s there now,” said Kirby.

Committee Member Joe Leighton said he’s come to a decision. “My opinion is that we should keep the pool open,” said Leighton, who recently finished two terms as a Reston Association Board of Director.

Leighton, who plans to run for the board again next year, said a key plank in his platform will be keeping all of Reston’s pools open.

Leighton also said that the board made a mistake when it closed the Lake Anne Pool in the early 1990s.

Other committee members made similar arguments, saying it would be wrong to close any of Reston’s 15 pools based on the likelihood that Reston will experience significant population growth in coming years.

SHADOWOOD POOL, which serves a lower-income, working class neighborhood, was first targeted for closure last summer when a consulting group released an assessment report on parks and recreation facilities.

PROS Consulting of Texas, which produced the report, recommended that RA consider closing underutilized pools to save money on operating costs, which run about $57,000 a year per pool.

Of the five pools with low participation levels, the report specifically recommended Tall Oaks and Shadowood pools for closing. “Both are poorly performing, older pools (put in service in 1977 and 1975, respectively), are geographically close to other pools, and may better serve the community converted to other desirable uses,” the report states.

RA formed the Parks and Recreation Planning Committee soon after the PROS report was released.

In the report, Reston’s pools were analyzed based on their level of utilization compared to the maximum capacity.

Many residents who use Shadowood have argued that one of the reasons they like their neighborhood pool is because it is not crowded to capacity.

Conversely, Glade Pool, the next closest pool for Shadowood patrons, is consistently at capacity, forcing lifeguards to turn people away.

The PROS report justified pool closures as a cost-saving exercise, saying that if both pools were closed, RA could save roughly $1 million in capital investment over 10 years.