Reston Association to seek feedback about potential repurposing of pools

Newbridge pool (courtesy Reston Association)

Reston Association will collect community feedback this summer about the potential “repurposing” of several community pools.

The process to go about doing this was discussed last week at a Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) meeting.

In May, RA staff recommended that four pools — Golf Course Island, Newbridge, Tall Oaks, and Shadowood — be “seriously considered for repurposing” due to low usage.

An online petition advocating against any pool closures has garnered more than 800 signatures, though there’s no guarantee that everyone who signed is an RA member or Reston resident.

RA maintains that there are currently no definite plans to close any pools, but the possibility is open depending on community response.

“RA is currently not planning the closure of any of our 15 community pools,” said at-large RA board member Tom Mulkerin, who is on PRAC, addressing what he called “rumors ” about pool closings. “Before any pool in the RA system is considered for closing or repurposing, the RA Board of Directors will go through a comprehensive community engagement process to determine what the community wants and needs.”

The PRAC committee was only recently reinstated after a year-long suspension at the recommendation of the Recreation Facilities Working Group.

At the beginning of the meeting, two RA members expressed their concern over the possible closing or repurposing of pools.

“All the pools…are beautiful gems,” said one. “The best use of the Tall Oaks pool is as a pool.”

Members of PRAC spoke at length about the best methods for gathering community feedback about what to do with the pools. Suggestions included attending in-person cluster meetings and using social media as well as more informal feedback and data gathering.

Currently, both Shadowood and Tall Oaks are closed due to planned capital improvements and are in need of extensive repairs. It could cost upwards of $250,000 to do those renovations, making the need for community feedback on those facilities particularly urgent.

PRAC members questioned if it was appropriate to spend that money now, especially in midst of RA’s budget crunch, if it remains unclear what members really want.

RA CEO Hank Lynch also expressed the need to gather feedback quickly since these renovations are scheduled to be done soon. He also noted that it is important to figure out why these particular pools have low usage.

In response, PRAC will immediately start reaching out to close-by clusters to gather data and feedback.

Committee members also expressed concerns about the believed need to make all RA pools an “attraction” or “destination pool” with water slides and other highly-valued amenities. This could drive up renovation costs and lead to members wanting them to be repurposed.

However, a potential compromise could be to simply make Tall Oaks or Shadowwood a wading pool or another facility with more basic features, as opposed to investing more money. The pools would then be available for lap swimming, swim teams, and even rentals to nearby daycares.

Lynch said that whatever decision is made about the pools, it has to be one that the community will continue to be okay with decades into the future.

“When you restore a pool, it’s designed to last [minimum] 30 years,” said Lynch. “The question is what do we do now, the community will have to support and embrace for the next 30 years.”

RA staff said there is already a working draft of a survey that asks residents about their recreation habits and pool usage. It will be released to the public in the coming weeks.

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