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Residents offer varying opinions concerning future of CA pools

Residents responded passionately at a public meeting Tuesday, Oct. 11, concerning a master plan for improvements and changes to Columbia Association pools.

Traci Pellegrini said the Faulkner Ridge pool, in Wilde Lake, "is one that should be closed. It doesn't serve the community the way it should be served."

Barbara Russell had a different view.

"It takes away from the entire community when you close a pool," said Russell, who said she was concerned about it affecting home prices and a community's identity. "I would like to see a way to keep pools open."

Russell and Pellegrini were among nearly 50 people who came to Slayton House, in Wilde Lake, for the meeting.

CA is considering changing how pools are operated and what amenities they offer; association staff and a volunteer task force have spoken to experts, hosted workshops and focus groups and invited ideas to be submitted online.

That helped them develop two scenarios: one would keep the 23 outdoor pools and SplashDown open and spend money to repair, renovate and maintain them, and one would close three of the least popular outdoor pools and SplashDown and dedicate money to replacing them with new facilities. The master plan could go with one scenario or a combination of both.

Some who spoke Tuesday evening suggested having specific pools designated for certain age groups or activities. Russell asked for a pool or two to "cater to" older residents. David Holdefer proposed turning the pool in Hobbit's Glen to "an adults only pool" where he could go for "a Friday night pizza night and have a beer." Nancy McCord, a Wilde Lake village board member, asked for more pools to host water aerobics programs.

But Pellegrini was among a couple of residents who supported closing pools. Faulkner Ridge, which is the second least-used CA pool, could be enclosed and used for swim teams, she said. Pellegrini is a manager for the Wilde Lake Watercats swim team, which has Faulkner Ridge as its home pool.

That thought matched with one of the proposed scenarios, which said space at other pools where teams had been practicing would be freed up. The other two closed pools would be turned into "Sprayparks," outdoor water-themed playgrounds. SplashDown could also be turned into an indoor water playground, with parts of the Columbia Swim Center then expanded for other uses.

Hopewell Pool in Owen Brown and Swansfield Pool in Harper's Choice have seen success after being transformed into mini-water parks; they are now the third- and fourth-most popular CA pools, respectively.

Other suggestions made Tuesday included keeping or enlarging CA's therapy pools and having some pools stay open later at night.

"I heard a very diverse set of expectations and desires," Jane Dembner, CA's director of community planning, said after the meeting. "There was a lot of passion on both sides of questions."

A second public meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 12.

The master plan, which is scheduled to be presented to the CA board in January, will likely include suggestions seen in both scenarios, such as making the facilities more energy efficient, adding spas to the two outdoor pools, modernizing bathhouses, designating one outdoor pool on each side of Columbia for lap swimming, upgrading landscaping and furnishings and adding wireless Internet access, retaining and maintaining CA's indoor pools, and adding an "aqua play area" for kids at Supreme Sports Club.

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