Community opposition to restricting the Hobbit's Glen neighborhood pool to use by adults only has the chairman of the Columbia Council rethinking the proposal.
"I think some variant of the proposal might be workable. This is just the looking around and thinking about it stage," said Chairman John Hansen, who last month asked the Harper's Choice village board to consider the proposal.
Mr. Hansen's proposal calls for the Hobbit's Glen pool, on the grounds of the Hobbit's Glen golf course, to restrict use to adults (anyone over 21) after 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The pool would be open to adults all day on Saturdays. The pool is closed on Monday.
The plan has sparked resistance from a group of about 25 Hobbit's Glen residents, who turned out at a March 3 Harper's Choice village board meeting to protest. Opponents have begun a petition drive and they plan to present the signatures at Tuesday's board meeting.
The residents contend that the proposal would be unfair and discriminatory to neighborhood children, and could lead to traffic and parking problems on the main thoroughfare in the community, Willow Bottom Drive.
Also, they're worried about other elements of the proposal, including the sale of beer and wine during adult pool hours and the playing of music.
Mr. Hansen believes the changes would be a success with adults because of the pool's proximity to the well-used Hobbit's Glen golf course and tennis facilities. Also, he said, Columbia's demographics include a growing segment of singles, senior citizens and families without children.
"We have to keep in mind that we need to offer programs for all segments of our community. Columbia certainly is a family place, but not all families have children and not all of our residents are part of families."
Mr. Hansen believes some opponents have misconstrued the intent of his proposal.
"This would not be a swinging singles pool. It would be a very laid back atmosphere for old fogeys like me who just want some quiet time, maybe a game of chess after a swim. The intention is not to allow it to be a place for loud music and a party atmosphere," he said.
Mary Troutman, a mother of two children and a 12-year Hob
bit's Glen resident, is among those opposing the proposal.
"I'm very concerned that this would be discriminatory to anyone under the age of 21. Also, now I'll have to drive my kids to a pool. Right now they walk to it on their own," she said.
Mr. Hansen said he understands parents' concerns about having to use other Columbia pools during adult pool hours.
"The pools really are seen as an integral part of the community. Changing any traditional use of them has to be done very carefully," he said.
The Columbia Association, which manages the unincorporated city's recreational facilities, and Columbia Council members have been considering designating adult-only hours at one or more of the city's 21 outdoor pools to ease crowding at some pools and increase attendance at under-used pools.
Some argue that an adults-only facility might be a successful marketing tool to generate new pool memberships.
The association's attendance figures show that of the city's 21 pools, Hobbit's Glen ranked 17th in overall attendance last summer with 7,457 visitors. The pool averaged 99 swimmers daily.
The city's most heavily used pool, the Hawthorn neighborhood pool in Hickory Ridge, saw 41,373 visitors, averaging 360 visitors daily.
Harper's Choice has two other community pools -- Swansfield and Longfellow. But Hobbit's Glen residents say they don't want their children walking to either because it would involve crossing busy roads.
Ms. Troutman and other opponents argue the plan would rob families of an activity during times of the week when working parents are most able to meet other family members poolside.
She and other Hobbit's Glen residents also strongly object to elements of the proposal that call for obtaining a liquor license for the facility and offering music as attractions for adults.
"That will probably lead to rowdiness," she said. "And what about the lifeguards? They are all under 21. Are they supposed to supervise adults who have been drinking?"
William McKinstray, vice chairman of the Harper's Choice village board, believes the proposal will have to be significantly modified if it is to get the board's support.
"If it's left as it is now, I'd say it's dead," he said.