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.”
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.
The Reston Association (RA) has reinstated the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) after a year-long suspension.
The committee, which was temporarily suspended in February 2020, advises the RA “Board of Directors on the sound management and development of facilities and amenities for association members, the delivery of association-sponsored or co-sponsored recreation/leisure activities and services and the prioritization of funding for capital improvements and recreation services,” according to the association’s site.
RA is already accepting applications online for any member in good standing that wishes to volunteer to be a committee member for PRAC.
The advisory committee was suspended at a board meeting as RA moved forward with a data-driven review of its recreational facilities. The review was headed by the Recreation Facilities Working Group (RFWG), which presented its findings during the board’s Feb. 25 meeting.
The reinstatement of PRAC last week came as one of RFWG’s primary recommendations for the RA board.
“Part of the facility workflow process that we envisioned has the PRAC being a significant player in helping to navigate through that workflow process, managing community engagement and helping the board understand what are our opportunities and perhaps challenges as we make decisions around individual facilities,” said Jeff Thomas, a RFWG member who presented the group’s findings to the board.
The primary recommendations RFWG advised to the board also included implementing a facility workflow process to repurpose or maintain specific sites and evaluate the annual funding required preventing deferring major repairs and replacement at sites.
Other recommendations were to encourage RA member participation and seek feedback on facilities and building a Parks and Recreation Master Plan for the next 10 years.
“We’re a standout community when it comes to our recreation facilities. We should be proud of that,” Thomas said. “The thing we do need to recognize though is that the increased capital cost needs to be dealt with in a meaningful way. They’re probably not going to be sustainable without significant increases to assessments or other funding sources.”
Thomas also presented findings and recommendations for the pools, tennis courts and lake access in the RA community.
RFWG’s proposals for pools were that they should be a focus in a new community recreation master plan, marketing should be increased to help grow pool membership and an evaluation should be conducted on amenity improvements for best practices of pool operations and service to residents.
Thomas also shared that RA should evaluate long-term operations of underutilized pools and potential opportunities for repurposing them.
The lake access recommendations included improving Reston residents’ access to the lakes, improving or installing launches for small boats or kayaks, and adding boat storage and dock fees for non-residents. Other recommendations were to install docks or controlled areas for fishing or observation, introduce new community programming, and partner with other community-oriented groups for environmental education.
“The lakes are certainly important assets that we have here in Reston that are really valued and appreciated,” Thomas said. “But we think there’s probably opportunities to better leverage those lakes for recreational activities.”
The tennis court recommendations included ensuring adequate budgeting for maintenance of the courts and their surrounding areas, providing more marketing of the courts, capturing more data on tennis interest for future decisions and exploring adapting underused courts to a multi-use model to allow play for other sports.
Instead of taking immediate action on RFWG’s recommendations, the board approved a motion from Director Bob Petrine to defer any decisions on them until the full board has a working session to discuss each item. His motion included deferring action on RFWG’s report until the Fiscal Committee finishes its current project work on the facility financial analysis.
Petrine’s approved motion also included directing RA staff to send RFWG’s report and materials to association members via RA’s newsletter, cluster newsletters and social media channels as well with other committees.
During their special budget session Monday afternoon (video), the Reston Association Board of Directors voted to guide staff toward listening to PRAC’s recommendations when setting guidelines for the 2018 pool schedule.
The recommendations are to:
- Prior to Memorial Day: reinstate Monday-Friday weekday hours at the two open pools
- Memorial Day through end of school: ensure there is one pool in each district available by 10 a.m. on weekdays
- Through mid-August: reinstate the “closed day” to just once a week at most pools, as opposed to twice a week
- Mid-August through first day of school: continue to adjust operating hours at certain pools based on member feedback, and continue to reopen additional facilities for Labor Day weekend.
The suggested changes would add $2.88 to the projected assessment rate for 2018, RA staff has calculated. Restoring all of the pool hours that were cut in this year’s schedule would tack on an additional $1.60.
“The recommendation that is before you, by the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, was worked on with staff,” CEO Cate Fulkerson said, addressing a director’s question about concerns with finding seasonal workers for the pools. “Staff believes that it can achieve [these changes, but] it does not believe it can go back to the full-scale set of hours that we had in 2016.”
Members provided feedback about pool hours during listening sessions held by RA directors in May and June. In addition, member feedback on the issue was collected during a feedback session with the Board earlier this month. Fulkerson said about 25 members attended and shared their thoughts.
Director Julie Bitzer (South Lakes District) is the Board’s liaison to PRAC. She said she believes the recommended changes address the majority of comments that were received about the schedule.
Hook Road Recreation Area was selected by RA’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee as the pilot project for “full-facility enhancement” after multiple facilities were evaluated in 2016. The idea is to take a facility that has pieces of replacement work in the plans in the capital reserve study and, instead, consider comprehensive work to upgrade the facility all at once.
Tuesday’s meeting was a kickoff to the project, sharing information with the community and beginning the process of gathering input. In between tense moments at the meeting, many residents of the community said they appreciated the effort Reston Association is undertaking to engage the community from the very start of the process.
“We all know, living in Reston, things change,” said John Pinkman, of Rescue Reston. “Things have to improve if we want to keep our property values as high as they are, [so] I really encourage this process.”
Dan Pennington, president of the Orchard Green Cluster Association, asked for clarification on what has been identified by Reston Association staff as “aging components” of the park that require attention. Garrett Skinner, RA’s capital projects director, said everything at the park falls into that category.
“Nothing has been replaced — in terms of the tennis court, the ballfields, the multipurpose court — since 1975,” Skinner said. “Many of these features are all kind of due for rehab around the same time, and this will be a good opportunity to look at everything as one facility instead of the previous methodology for us, [which was] just to fix little things as they’re needed.”
Concerns about parking and restroom facilities at the park are among those that have been brought up in one way or another regarding the project. Upgrades to facilities including the baseball field have also been mentioned by community members.
At Tuesday’s meeting, design consultant Dewberry was introduced to members, and its representatives shared information about the studies that have been done so far and how community input will be used as the project continues to be studied and eventually decided upon. A representative of PRAC also shared information, as did Skinner.
The question was raised of whether the fact that $50,000 has already been allocated from the Repair & Replacement Reserve Fund to develop plans for Hook Road means a “very large” project is being envisioned.
“What you saw tonight from Dewberry, all of that work, that’s where we allocated that $50,000 — all the data gathering, all the community input, all the research they’re doing,” said Sherri Hebert, president of RA’s Board of Directors. “There is no design [yet]. It could be anything from a small little thing to whatever the community wants. There’s nothing out there yet.”
Saying the current RA board is “very conservative” when funds are concerned, Hebert said a large-scale project is not anticipated.
“What will be different this year is an iterative process between the Working Group … and the Board,” Hebert said. “It’s not going to come back with this big project. … Nothing will be a surprise with the community.”
The Hook Road Working Group will be tasked with making a proposal to the RA Board on the project’s scope early next year. Applications for the group are currently being accepted, and interviews will take place in October.
The first community meeting to discuss a future project at Hook Road Recreation Area provided members a chance to learn about the process and share information about how their voices will be heard.
It was far from run of the mill, though, as the Tuesday evening event was dotted with angry voices and flaring tempers — and even an appearance from the Fairfax County Police Department.
The meeting was the kickoff of what will be a several-month project to determine what, if anything, should be done to enhance the facilities at the park in North Reston. Design consultant Dewberry was introduced to members, and its representatives shared information about the studies that have been done so far and how community input will be used as the project continues to be studied and eventually decided upon.
Many of the more than 100 members in attendance, however, expressed their dismay with Ray Wedell — the At-Large member of the Reston Association Board of Directors who recently shared his personal thoughts on the project in a five-page statement. In the statement, Wedell said amenities such as the baseball field at the park do not need upgrades, and that consideration should be given to removing the tennis and basketball facilities altogether.
Sherri Hebert, president of the RA Board, made a point at the start of the meeting to mention that Wedell’s opinions in no way represent anything that is being considered by the Board as a whole.
“I did receive several emails, and I know the RA Board did as well … regarding a letter [from Wedell],” Hebert said. “I just want to say that was Ray’s comments and Ray’s perspective; that did not represent the Reston Board or RA.”
Presentations were provided by Elaine Killoran of RA’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and by Garrett Skinner, RA’s director of capital projects, on how the process of determining what will be done at the park will proceed. Members are being encouraged to apply to be part of the Hook Road Working Group, which will be appointed in October and will be asked to give a report to the Board in February.
In December, the Board authorized the allocation of $50,000 from the Repair & Replacement Reserve Fund for the purpose of developing design concept plans related to the Hook Road project. The Board voted at its July meeting to form the working group.
Future community work sessions and roundtable events on the project have been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4, 10 and 24.
Reduced pool hours in the 2017 schedule drew the ire of many in the Reston community.
Now that the season is nearing its end, those members and others will have the opportunity to share feedback from their summer experiences.
The Reston Association Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee will be made available on Sunday, Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon during an open house at The Lake House (11450 Baron Cameron Avenue). They will be collecting member input on the 2017 pool schedule, as well as thoughts and suggestions about what should be done in 2018.
This year, no pools were 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 were open on weekdays, with one (Glade) open only three hours a night.
In addition, as school is starting next week — one week earlier than in past years — North Shore and Ridge Heights will be the only two pools open the week preceding Labor Day, from 4-7 p.m. each evening. However, RA has announced that Lake Audubon and Lake Newport pools will both be opened for Labor Day weekend.
North Shore and Ridge Heights pools will remain open on weekends and weeknights through Sept. 24.
Mike Leone, communications director for Reston Association, told Reston Now in April that the 2017 schedule was developed as part of an effort to “identify significant cost savings.”
“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.”
Members brought up concerns about the pool schedule during general member input sessions earlier this year. Those suggestions are being considered by the RA Board of Directors as part of their budget process.
Anyone who has input to share but is unable to attend the Sept. 10 event is invited to email comments to [email protected].
The Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee is scheduled to make a report on the issue to the Board of Directors at a budget work session Sept. 18.