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Joppatowne residents seek options for saving pool

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About 75 to 100 concerned residents of Joppatowne and their supporters crowded under the pavilion at Mariner Point Park Wednesday to learn more about what could be done to save the community pool at Mariner Point Swim Club.

"If we pulled off the trash transfer station, and we shut that down, we can pull this off too," Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie, whose district includes Joppatowne, Joppa and Edgewood, told the crowd.

The picnic tables under the park pavilion were filled to capacity, and many attendees stood outside the pavilion.

The Mariner Point Swim Club has been a staple of Joppatowne since the early 1960s. Owner Murray Stephens plans to sell the 4.5-acre property to Southern Baptist Church of Baltimore.

Church officials, who also hold meetings in Aberdeen for Harford County congregants, plan to build a community life center on the land, including a 400- to 600-seat sanctuary.

The Rev. Donte Hickman, pastor of Southern Baptist, told The Aegis in June that church leaders plan to keep the pool open for three to five years while the community life center is being built.

The pool has been closed this summer, and Joppatowne community leaders and residents — including several 12- and 13-year-old girls who contacted Guthrie and other county leaders with their concerns — have been working to keep it from being sold.

"We love the pool," Hannah Fitzpatrick, 13, told The Aegis during a small protest held outside the pool in late June. "That's where we hang out in the summer."

Others, such as Heather Wink, who brought her 1-year-old son, Parker, Wednesday; he sat in his stroller wearing inflatable arm floats, placed on him to protest the pool closing.

"He doesn't have anywhere to learn how to swim," Wink said. "His dad and his big sister, aunts and uncles, all learned to swim [at Mariner Point]."

An eight-member volunteer group has been put together to coordinate the community drive to save the pool.

"We're all just trying to work together," said Mary E. Smith, a member of the group who spent 19 summers working at the pool.

Volunteers were able to sign up Wednesday to go door to door through Joppatowne to obtain signatures on petitions, which must be turned in before July 24.

A petition can also be signed online at http://www.ipetitions.com; it is listed under "Save the Joppatowne Pool."

Local residents want the county to purchase the property and build a community center there.

Guthrie told audience members and later The Aegis he is investigating the county's options for purchasing the property and funding a community center.

He stressed to the audience that the county cannot interfere in the ongoing business transaction between Stephens and the church, but he would look into filing a "backup contract" to purchase the property, which would be available if the first deal does not go through.

"The community has a great interest in keeping the pool open, and certainly that would be an interest of mine also," said Guthrie, who resides in Joppatowne and has children and grandchildren who have been members of the pool.

Art Helton, a former state senator from Harford County who is campaigning to return to Annapolis, advised audience members to find investors to purchase the pool.

Smith told The Aegis about Helton's suggestion after the meeting, and said three people offered $50,000 each, and other attendees offered to contribute as well. The property would then be sold to the county for the community center.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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