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Changes to Pool Schedule Bring Questions from Reston Residents

by Dave Emke — April 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm 42 Comments

Diana Turecek of Windleaf Court calls changes in hours in the 2017 Reston Association swimming pool schedule a “slap in the face to Reston residents who continue to face substantial increases in annual Association dues.”

In a letter to the editor submitted to Reston Now, Turecek says the changes — which include no weekday swimming prior to Memorial Day weekend and only two pools open the week before Labor Day — will result in frustration for Reston residents who just want to go swimming.

“This year fewer pools will be open, and those that are open will be open fewer hours. If you like swimming at the end of the season, have kids who like to swim on the weekdays, or are a lap swimmer, the pools are going to be much more crowded.”

This year, no pools will be open on weekdays prior to Memorial Day; in 2016, both the North Shore and Ridge Heights pools were open from 1-7 p.m. each weekday beginning May 14. Through June 23, only four pools will be open on weekdays, with one (Glade) open only three hours a night.

Mike Leone, RA’s communications director, said the pool schedule is developed annually based on a number of factors including historical use, geographic distribution of facilities, current program and rental use, potential future program and rental use, staffing requirements and budget implications.

“During the 2017 budget development process, the Board directed staff to identify significant cost savings in the budget to accommodate other strategic goals. Based on facility usage data collected over the past three years that shows a decline in pool attendance as well as feedback from the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors approved pool schedule options by which the proposed aquatics budget could be reduced while still serving the interests of the membership as a whole.”

Another reader who contacted Reston Now about the changes says the new schedule fails “to take into consideration that most people want these pools open when the weather is warm enough to swim through Labor Day.”

North Shore and Ridge Heights will be the only two pools open the week preceding Labor Day, from 4-7 p.m. each evening. All other pools will see their seasons end by Aug. 27. In 2016, Glade and Lake Newport pools also remained open through the first weekend in September.

Leone said pool staff is made up mainly of high school and college students. Fairfax County Public Schools changed its school schedule for 2017-18, beginning classes the last week of August (Monday, Aug. 28) instead of after Labor Day as in the past. Leone said a school schedule that ends June 23 and begins again Aug. 28 results in only nine full weeks of summer for pool scheduling.

Leone said the pool “season” schedule was tweaked this year to allow two more pools to stay open prior to school returning to session. In addition, he said, RA “will reopen as many pools as possible for the three-day Labor Day weekend, prioritizing those facilities which have the most capacity for swimmers and recreational users of all types.”

Turecek also expressed concern about Lake Newport pool being closed until 1 p.m. most weekends in June and July for Reston Swim Team Association meets. Other pools will be affected three weekends during the summer for meets.

“I also suspect — as in past years — there will be other non-announced pool closures to accommodate local day cares, summer camps or the dreaded ‘hygiene incidents,'” Turecek wrote.

Leone said staff has looked strategically at pools that can “generate additional revenue from rentals and activities during ‘closed’ hours.”

North Shore and Ridge Heights pools will open for the season Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • LC

    I can understand how the week before Labor Day would be taken off the table now that schools are going back before Labor Day. I think anyone who uses the pools knows that it’s mostly kids in school who are the staff….therefore if they are back in school there is no staff.

  • OldButSlow

    I don’t like the sound of, “the Board directed staff to identify significant cost savings in the budget to accommodate other strategic goals.” I’d like to know which “strategic goals” beat spending money on pools and suspect that it’s spending money on even more staff at RA headquarters.

  • Robert

    As a former Reston Association aquatics employee, I blame this entirely on the aquatics director, Willa Whitacre. Decreasing pool hours are due solely to a vastly reduced pool staff, with employees increasingly less likely to return year after year due to her weak management. Fire her

  • Greendayer

    Residents paying for the Tetra errors of the RA staff and Board.

  • Guest1

    I watched the budget meetings about pool hours and I have say that I thought it made perfect sense to keep the pools closed when they’re not being used. If you thought Tetra was a bad idea why would you want that followed with more bad ideas, like keeping pools open when no one or very few are using them? That makes no sense at all.

    • TheKingJAK

      If it’s warm outside they’re being used, trust me. Every time they limit which pools are opened up during May through September, there is overcrowding.

      • Greg

        We are in the middle of a heat wave. What pools are open now, let alone being used?

  • LookingAhead

    Let’s be clear on this sharp reduction of pool
    hours for the community. The reductions were directed and approved by the RA Board of Directors which changed substantially 3 weeks ago. There is a new Board, with new leadership now in place, but stuck with the budget and reduced pool staffing put in place by their predecessors.

    • John Higgins

      Indeed, this situation was created by a former board’s priorities. Adding staff, funding consultant studies of facility repurposing, sustaining subsidies for most fee-based programs, and roadway clean up on behalf of VDOT, were taken as higher priority than this part of the pool schedule. That was a value judgment by the board. I’d quibble a bit with their being “stuck” with it. Budget decisions can be undone quite simply, as we saw several times in 2016. We are told that this adjusted 2017 schedule produced a cost savings of $95,600. Call that Option B. I am not aware of consideration of any other options nor of the usage analysis that pointed to the reduced schedule being clearly a luxury to the swim program.

      The board has a few months to reconsider; I would suggest that those who feel as strongly as these comments indicate write to their directors. As to the future, RA is soliciting ideas for the 2018-2019 budget cycle; comments there will be more effective than here (no disrespect to RestonNow.)

  • Reggie

    It’s offensive that the Association that is supposed to represent Reston residents is explaining this with a corporate speak answer that is dishonest to say the least. Everyone knows that cut in hours is due to tetra. The very least they could have done was to enable residents to comments on proposed closures before they were implemented. The ra has become just another layer of government that does not work in the interests of those who fund it.

  • cRAzy

    Just one of the many “benefits” of having wasted $2.7MM on buying Tetra and another $1MM repairing it. Not to mention the 3 buses to cart kids to after school care there, competing with several local private businesses.

  • Charlie W.

    What was the First of the 7 Original Goals of Reston?
    “That the widest choice of opportunities be made available for the use of leisure time. This means that the New Town should provide a wide range of cultural and recreational facilities as well as an environment for privacy.”
    Recreational infrastructure (pools and tennis courts) were in place before the first house was sold.
    Those 15 pools, our tennis courts and 55 miles of pathways are a crucial assets of Reston. Mine was a young family when we moved here and those pools were jewels. The marathon day of swimming in every pool in one summer day, absolutely priceless memory.
    Seems we’re in the downward cycle of reduced hours – reduced usage- reduce hours ….
    We can’t use what’s not open, so a family of adults now lose the habit of swimming.
    I suspect the number of pool passes will drop, further reason to reduce hours next season.
    Seems like we’re REDUCING the choice of opportunities made available for the use of leisure time.
    OPEN THE POOLS.

  • Waterlogged

    As an avid swimmer, owner of RestonPools.com and Reston resident of 46 years (ok, that made me feel old), I have seen the pool schedule changes (I enter the data every year) with this years being the worst – no weekday hours before Memorial day, and pools closed two days a week during the busy season rather than one. At the very least, RA could restore weekday hours for the two pools prior to Memorial day. These pools are utilized during this period.

    I do appreciate the financial decisions that need to be made, and not everyone is a swimmer, but I feel like RA provides 3 months of pools for an ever increasing fee, our return on investment is dwindling. I remember when Ridge Heights had a bubble and operated year round.

    RA, please, get your act together, admit when you are wrong, learn and run yourself like a business and not another bloated agency cutting services rather than waste. Focus and fix the problem.

    • The Constitutionalist

      They can’t run like a business. Businesses aren’t guaranteed a big ($700) yearly sale regardless of their services.

    • Guest

      The Ridge Height pool “bubble” was an illegal installation, and was removed several years ago only after repeated complaints and threatened legal action by neighborhood residents. Gone is gone.

      • Waterlogged

        Just curious … It was there for a few years, what made it illegal? I don’t know the details of it’s removal, but thought it was political, not illegal.

        • Greg

          Unapproved land-use change and, ironically, no DRB approval. There was some chatter about who was paying for it — the RA members or the swim club. The whole debacle spawned the ARCH group which I think is now defunct.

      • TheKingJAK

        The people complaining didn’t even live on the same street as the pool.

    • Greg

      The problem is Cate Fulkerson.

      Let’s hope the new board gets rid of her and cleans house.

  • Donald

    Apparently this was a board decision and not a staff decision. Decisions like this can be reversed — if the new board has the will and desire to do so. Amenities like pools will never be profitable, and I doubt they ever have been since Reston was formed. But, they are required amenities nonetheless, like paths, tennis courts, tot lots, ball fields, etc.

    I hope this, and future boards, stop focussing on piecemeal cuts, and start targeting new, innovative revenue streams, grants, public-private partnerships, proffers, mitigation funds, etc.

    Donald

    • Greg

      “But, they are required amenities…”

      Required by whom or what?

      • Donald

        Good point. Perhaps we don’t need these things called pools.

        • Greg

          We support fewer, nicer, and all-season pools jointly operated with other entities — the STD #5, the county, the schools, the rec centers, and the park authority immediately come to mind,

          Three-month pools, now open for about two months, make no sense in today’s world nor does having at least five competing tax-funded entities providing competing and inadequate rec services.

          Not to mention private tax-paying businesses who provide most of the same services, but I digress…

          The small outdated improperly-named Shadowood pool, for example, should either be permanently closed or given to Shadowood. (RA owns the pool, not Shadowood).

          More importantly, the RA hired expensive consultants costing tens of thousands of dollars who said the exact same thing.

          • TheKingJAK

            Outdoor pools can only be operated in our climate for a timespan of a few months per year, and the only way you’ll change that is by moving them all indoors. Never mind how absurd it is that people should have to move indoors to enjoy pools in the summertime, but the indoor aquatic environment also requires a greater amount of careful maintenance so as to avoid germ growth and subsequent swimmer infections (Sunlight keeps much of this in check). RA just wastes dues on moving to a new headquarters, shiny colorful magazines, and of course the Lake House, none of which are necessary services provided to the citizenry for our own enjoyment.

          • iovw

            Not sure why outdoor pools can’t be in operation year-around. When I lived in Boulder, CO the Colorado Athletic Club had an outdoor pool open year around that had a masters swim class in the evenings (even when the temp was 10 and it was dark).

          • Greg

            They can be operated year round, but they were not built for winter conditions. Moreover there is a high cost to heat and staff them and, more than likely, very few users.

            We own a beach-front condo in Panama City Beach — the cost to heat two hot tubs one of the two pools can exceed $60,000 a month in January and February.

  • Guest

    After being shocked at the gutting of the pool program, I watched the fall budget videos to find out how this happened. What I saw made me sick. It was a concerted effort by RA leadership to push through a last minute a request for $130,000 to fund a new capital projects director position. They argued lack of use of Newbridge pool to justify closing even busy pools two days a week and claimed the reduction of funds/hours is what the staff believes the best option. In spite of some objections, they pushed through a vote by urging they couldn’t delay passing a budget. RA leadership was happy. They could do more Lake Houses. The staff was happy because they wouldn’t have to bother with as many lifeguards and pools. Only the members were unhappy.

    • Greg

      One more nail in Cate Fulkerson’s coffin?

  • The Constitutionalist

    Didn’t we see this coming toward the end of the summer last year?

  • Chuck Morningwood

    It’s official: Reston is now a “for profit” corporation. Their goal is no longer to deliver services with dues as a means to fulfilling their constituents’ wants and needs. They goal is to collect dues while delivering the least possible amount of service to their customers.

    • The Constitutionalist

      That’s not how for profit and not-for-profit works.

      But yes, that is what they are trying to do, it seems.

  • karen lumpkins

    With all the tacky high rises going up and are up, RHOA, aka RA, has plenty of money. The annual fees keep going up every year and one of the summer activities that all of us can enjoy, the hours are being cut. Why, and don’t claim it’s the budget. It’s greed as Reston is considered “a cash cow”. Shameful.

  • DeahH

    I went to the Ridge Heights pool yesterday afternoon (a Thursday) and it was super crowded. The 3 lap lanes were doubled up, there were kids and adults in the other areas, and then an entire lifeguard certification class was scheduled and needed to be accommodated. With only two pools in north Reston and two in south Reston open weekdays for most of June, I think we can expect to see similar crowding for a while. I can certainly understand not opening more earlier in the weekday, but it seems the 4-6 pm time period is quite popular.

  • Ihor Jarema

    Time to push for Town status for Reston within the State. Reston was developed with pool and tennis amenities as a development ploy, the better to sell Reston properties. As Reston was built out the only players who benefited were the County/State who collected taxes and the developers who have shifted their avarice to developing the metro corridor thru Reston.

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