Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Splish Splash

Pool season has officially started. Did you visit one of Columbia's many outdoor pools this weekend? The weather wasn't exactly encouraging, but we managed a visit to the Stevens Forest pool, which is rumored to be heated. That must be a relative term, because it was rather chilly yesterday. We admired the updates--shade structures, hot tub/spa in progress, and a shaded exercise area with a special surface, more forgiving than concrete. Nice work, CA.

I usually go to the Talbott Springs pool first, as it is my "home" pool, so to speak, but I was curious about the added amenities at Stevens Forest. I hear that Talbott Springs is getting a water slide. I wonder if that will increase daily attendance this season.  The past several summer Oakland Mills Community Association has worked hard in collaboration with CA Aquatics to make the pool more user friendly to neighbors.

It's no secret in Columbia that the Talbott Springs Pool is one of the least utilized pools in the system. As a Talbott Springs resident, I have visited newer or more recently updated pools like River Hill and Swansfield and have come away feeling rather jaded. While other pools have Splashpads, beach entry, and enormous umbrellas cemented into the ground for shade, Talbott Springs didn't even have picnic tables with umbrellas, non-reclining chairs or hot water in the showers.

I felt as though the Village of Oakland Mills was like Charlie Brown in the Halloween Special. "I got a candy bar." I got gum." "I got a rock."

Over the the past two summers, the Talbott Springs pool has received more attention. We finally got some tables with umbrellas, a better assortment of chairs, and hot water for showers. The rate for daily entrance has been lowered, and the Columbia Swims program has provided basic water safety/ intro to swim classes at a reduced rate.

We're still one of the most underutilized pools, and we may very well be again this summer. Even with the addition of a $75,000.00 water slide. So, who is right?

One school of thought is this : CA doesn't care about this pool and let it languish because the demographic is not who they care about, and now they want to close it. Another school of thought is, this pool has shown over a long period of time that it is nit being used by residents. Therefore it is not needed, and the money saved by closing it can benefit CA in another way.

Stop, stop! You're both right.

It is true that CA Aquatics let the Talbot Springs pool trail behind as they updated other pools, and their lack of responsiveness to Village concerns has earned them a less than stellar reputation here. Their work in recent years has been a vast improvement, but it is possible that OM residents feel it has been too little, too late.

On the other hand, I feel that there is merit in wanting to spend Columbia Association money, our money, on something that is truly utilized. And what I hear coming from CA is a desire not so much to "close the pool" as to put something in its place which truly benefits and meets the needs of the surrounding area. I think that certain individuals have hijacked this message and turned it into a vision of a filled up hole in the ground, and a lock on a chain link fence.

What would I like?  If we are going to re-purpose the Talbott Springs pool, I'd like the biggest, coolest splashpad in the system. So cool that people would come from other Villages to use it.  And I'd like it to be staffed with enough trained CA employees to interact in a positive way with neighborhood youth and children. Let the neighborhood see how a variety of programs can happen in that space. In addition, I want CA to provide a free shuttle to one of the nearby pools for a continuation of low-cost swimming lessons: "Aquatibus," if you like.

If this is an issue you care about, do something.  Write the CA Board, write Phil Nelson, write CA Aquatics. Write a letter to the Columbia Flier. Go online and make a proposal for the future at Inspire Columbia.  There are a few folks who have made this issue their political football. But your input is what really matters, and if you don't contribute your opinion, the old football 'switcheroo' will continue, and no one will win.

See you at the pool?


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