Early last month, Larry Butler took over as the acting chief executive operator of the Reston Association (RA) after Hank Lynch resigned from the position.

Butler, a long-time employee of RA, was formerly the chief operating officer nd actually was the acting CEO once before, prior to the hiring of Lynch in 2018.

All of this is to say that Butler understands RA and the challenges that come with running one of the largest community associations in the country.

It’s also a complicated time for RA, with the organization in the midst of budget season, possibly increasing assessments, cutting capital projects, and still dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

Reston Now spoke with Butler via phone last week to discuss assessments, community engagement, pools, budget, and a timeline for hiring a new permanent CEO.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Reston Now (RN): Since you took over as acting CEO in early September, what’s been taking most of your time? What have been the challenges so far? 

Larry Butler: What’s taking the most time is working through the budget process, which is always time consuming. The key part there is trying to get a [grasp] from the broader community on what the priorities are for the coming year. There’s obviously a lot of opinions on what those priorities should be and how we fund those priorities. 

RN: And what have you heard from the community so far? 

LB: Not as much as we would have liked. I would have thought we have had more people participating in the September board meeting. We’ve had listening and work sessions… and very, very few members are jumping on that. 

We do a pretty good job of getting information out there. One person [told me] maybe that means people are okay with the job that RA is doing in the community. Maybe that leads to some apathy, at least regarding the budget. 

RN: In terms of the budget, an assessment increase is being considered. Why is that and is there any way to avoid it? 

LB: We are a staff-driven organization, a service organization. Whether that is our central service facility, taking care of all of our myriad facilities throughout the community, or our programing staff and intelligence, we are staff-driven. What I’ve put into the budget draft is a 3% merit pool increase because there was no merit increase in 2021. I feel strongly that’s a very important thing. It’s a very difficult job market right now. 

Insurance costs are also going up, that’s something we must absolutely pay for. There’ll be three new positions as well. We’re going to be adding into the next budget draft a senior environmental position at the RA Board’s direction. We are currently operating without three of our senior leadership team. We don’t have a CEO, our IT director resigned, and October 20 is the last day for our director of Human Resources. There’s also inflation. 

One of our considerations to help offset these costs and increasing assessments… is looking at our fiscal position in terms of the repair and replacement fund as well as some operating surplus going forward in 2022, as well as possibly 2023. 

RN: If assessments do increase, how does that impact the affordability of living in Reston? There’s been some discussion about working with the Friends of Reston on providing help to those who can’t afford the assessments. 

LB: We haven’t fully fleshed out how that could work yet. It’s a difficult situation because when one buys into or even rents in Reston, it’s contractual in nature. We don’t have the ability in our governing documents to afford relief. We’ll have more discussion about it, certainly with the Friends of Reston. The difficulty there too is that there’s limited funding there as well. We may be able to assist a handful of people, but not hundreds. 

RN: There’s been a lot of talk about capital improvement projects, renovations, and possibly “repurposing” of pools. Where is the discussion currently at with that and how is a decision made on that? 

LB: In terms of big projects, we are not in much different position than in years past. But, sure, none have been like Lake Thoreau Pool, which is much more complicated because it’s next to a lake… that will be the biggest capital project we’ve ever done in terms of cost. 

In terms of smaller projects on pools and tennis courts, what we are finding now is that it makes more sense if you are going to go spend a [few] hundred thousands of dollars on a pool, that might be a time to rethink the shape. Or could it be something else? I think we’ve done a really good job of managing that and managing the expectations. 

Anytime you bring up the notion of closing recreation facilities, whether it’s a pool or a tennis court, you get a lot of input. Those four pools [being considered for repurposing] have historically really low usage, but cost is the same to maintain and repair. We’ve heard a lot from those [communities] around those four pools. It’s really about starting a conversation about what’s possible.

In the end, if that conversation leads to we would like our pool exactly the way it is, so be it. That’s what we will program for and budget for. It was really just to get that conversation on the table. 

RN: What’s the status update on the process of finding a new permanent CEO? 

We are finalizing the contract with the search firm. Hopefully, that will be done [soon]. The search firm will be putting together a profile based upon input from the RA board… like what skill sets, traits, and experiences are wanted. Then, we will kick it off in earnest. 

There’s not an established timeline, at least not until the board meets with the search firm. Typically, a search like this could take four to five months. 

RN: Any last thoughts you’d like to share? 

LB: We have public hearings on the budget coming up on October 13 and November 10. It would be great to have people come out and share their thoughts. 

We know people are so busy and they get most engaged when something impacts them really close to their homes, like the pool discussion, but talking about the more nebulous things that don’t impact them exactly where they live, it’s harder for them to get excited about that. 

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Reston Association is turning to the public to guide the future of the Shadowood Recreation Area.

The area, which is on Springwood Drive, houses an aging 20-meter pool that has been closed for two years. The 15-question survey asks residents about future plans for the aging facility. Options include renovation, replacing with a different recreational amenity, or reopening as is.

Shadowood is among four pools — including Golf Course Island, Newbridge and Tall Oaks — that are on the bill for repurposing due to low usage. Staff made the suggestion in May.

In-person open houses are planned at the closed pool on Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. and Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. A virtual meeting via Zoom is also planned on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. The survey will remain open through Nov. 1.

Suggested new uses for the pool include a park with a picnic area, playground, basketball court, sand volleyball, and a pavilion and grill.

RA is poised to spend around $40 million to run, maintain and address capital improvement needs on its 15 pools and more than 50 tennis courts.

The discussion follows a long-anticipated evaluation of RA’s recreational facilities. The study by the Recreational Facility Work Group found a major increase in funding is needed to address capital improvement work at decades-old facilities.

In an email, Mike Leone, RA’s spokesman, told Reston Now that RA’s Board of Directors will meet with the workgroup to review survey findings and other community feedback.

While no firm timeline has been set, the feedback will guide the development of next year’s capital and operating budgets.

“The board is interested in learning what members would like to see happen with the pool and that recreation area,” Leone said.

Pool usage has dropped by over 37 percent over the last decade, according to the workgroup. Over the last ten years, it has cost around $9.6 million to maintain and operate four of the now-closed pools with the least frequent usage as of 2019.

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Morning Notes

Mimosa over Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Flash Flood Watch in Effect for Ida — The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch and Hazardous Weather Outlook for Fairfax County that will be in effect today (Wednesday) through tomorrow morning, as the remnants of Hurricane Ida pass over the region. The county advises avoiding flooded streets, moving valuables from basements, and making sure storm drains and gutters aren’t clogged. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Alcorn Denies County/Golf Course Development Deal — Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told the citizens’ advocacy group Rescue Reston that Fairfax County is not aware of any deals to redevelop one of Reston’s two golf courses. A Rescue Reston board member said his group had been told a development deal was “in the works with the county,” which Alcorn denied. [Patch]

Eagerness and Uncertainty Mix in High School Football’s Return to Reston — “By 6 p.m. Friday, the only remaining evidence of that afternoon’s thunder and rain were shallow puddles dotting the back parking lot at South Lakes High School in Reston…It was time for a football game. This matchup between the Seahawks and Robinson was one of about 50 games played across the D.C. area last weekend — the official return of fall football.” [The Washington Post]

RA Announces Labor Day Weekend Pool Schedule — The North Shore, Ridge Heights, Lake Newport, and Glade pools will all be open from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 4-5) and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday (Sept. 6). While the summer pool season is coming to a close, the North Shore and Ridge Heights pools will remain open through Sept. 19. [Reston Association/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Faced with a tight budget, Reston Association is contemplating what capital improvement projects it should prioritize — and which ones might need to be delayed or even cut.

At a budget work session on Wednesday (Aug. 18), the board of directors discussed planned renovations, cracking tennis courts, potential pool repurposing, and where the money is going to come from to address all of those issues.

RA’s capital needs have grown in recent years, according to a presentation delivered at the meeting by the chair of the fiscal committee Dave Kerr.

Over the next decade, it’s estimated that RA will need $40 million to cover capital costs, which have become a persistent concern. RA is currently working on a five-year capital improvement project plan to better assess its existing and future needs.

“We believe that we maybe should revisit even approved projects just to make sure we are working on the right things,” said Kerr.

The projected increase in costs is due in part to a renovation schedule with six pools over the next six years, according to the presentation.

The list includes Shadowood pool, which is currently closed while it waits for about $200,000 worth of maintenance. That is in addition to the $1.4 million needed to renovate the entire facility, according to another staff presentation.

The Shadowood pool is also among the facilities that RA has proposed potentially repurposing due to low usage.

The board devoted a chunk of the meeting to discussing if it’s worth spending money to do maintenance work on the community pool now, only for it to be renovated or even repurposed later.

The consensus was that it was not, leaving the possibility that the pool won’t be open again for the 2022 season.

RA is still gathering community feedback on its pool repurposing idea, though board member Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza offered a motion asking that an in-person event be arranged to better interact with the residents who use that pool.

“Shadowood is a very different community [than the rest of Reston]. They don’t have the time…to sit through a RA board meeting,” said Selvaraj-D’Souza. “A lot of them are non-English speaking…If we want to get feedback from Shadowood, we need to get boots on the ground, and get their feedback.”

The motion was approved unanimously, committing RA to hold an in-person event — perhaps an ice cream social — to solicit feedback.

The Barton Hill tennis courts are also in need of a major overhaul, and comments during the meeting suggested that project is a staff priority.

The courts are cracked, the foundation is an issue, and some community members have requested converting them into pickleball courts. Other possible improvements include the addition of lights and a seasonal, roof-like covering. Of course, all of that would cost money — potentially more than $850,000.

The board didn’t make any decision on the Barton Hill project beyond requesting more information about the cost and timeline.

Given the amount of capital improvements waiting to be made, including many that the board didn’t have time to discuss, one board member floated the idea of RA borrowing money so it could afford all of the projects. The board has also discussed raising assessments next year.

Further complicating discussions about RA’s fiscal year 2022 is the impending departure of CEO Hank Lynch, who announced earlier this month that he will resign for another position. While he is still technically in the role until Sept. 3, he wasn’t in attendance at the virtual budget work session.

The board of directors named RA Chief Operating Officer Larry Butler acting CEO on Thursday (Aug. 19) as the organization conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

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Morning Notes

Boating on Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Fairfax County Sees Uptick in Unemployment — “Unemployment rates across Fairfax County and Northern Virginia ticked back up above 4 percent in June…which likely is a return to more seasonal ups and downs than a retreat from gains made in the post-COVID era. With 595,420 county residents in the civilian workforce and 25,225 on the hunt for jobs, Fairfax County’s unemployment rate for June stood at 4.1 percent, according to figures reported July 28 by the Virginia Employment Commission.” [Sun Gazette]

Reports of Sick Birds in Virginia Declining — “After Virginia and other states began receiving reports of a mysterious illness sickening or killing birds in late May, reports are starting to go down. However, the cause of the birds’ illness and deaths remains unknown…From May 23 to June 30, the most reports have occurred in Fairfax and Arlington Counties, according to a map of reports.” [Patch]

Thousands of Job Seekers Used County Website — “Just over one year after the official launch of its workinnorthernvirginia.com website and accompanying talent initiative funded by the Fairfax County government, the site created by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) has logged more than 483,000 visitors and 72,000 job views. The website connects a new and diverse talent pool — in Northern Virginia and in key target markets such as the Bay Area and New York City — with companies in the region.” [FCEDA]

Dog Paddle Events Coming to Reston Pools — Reston Association’s annual Dog Paddle will return in August, giving pups a chance to play in its swimming pools. There will be three events in August and one in September. Registration is now open with a $12 fee for RA members and a $20 fee for non-members. [RA/Twitter]

via vantagehill/Flickr

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Lake Thoreau Pool concept design as of July 2021 (via Reston Association)

The Reston Association Design Review Board gave its final approval to the $3.5 million renovation of Lake Thoreau pool, though with a request to see a color sample.

The approval at the design review board meeting on Tuesday (July 20) keeps the project on track for construction to begin in October or November, RA spokesperson Mike Leone confirms to Reston Now in an email.

This is the third time the RA Design Board has approved the much-discussed project, but final approvals meant reviewing the exact dimensions, materials, and colors that will be used.

While the motion to approve the application passed unanimously, it came with a request for a physical sample of the teal color that would be used for a railing.

Besides colors and railings, there was some discussion at the meeting about fencing as well as the cost of redesigning and maintaining the overlook deck.

However, none of that held up approval, allowing the multi-million dollar pool project to move forward.

Leone writes that RA is already going on to the next steps of the renovation process, including moving through the estimation and procurement phase.

“We have already released the RFP (request for proposal) to potential contractors and are awaiting their submissions due around this time next month,” writes Leone. “With that information, RA staff will be able to generate a final estimate for the project and seek Board of Director approval to move forward with construction.”

He anticipates the RA Board’s approval of the project to come in September with construction to begin shortly after, barring any more contractor or material availability-related delays.

Key design elements of the renovation include ADA access with a ramp into the pool, a redesign of the overlook deck, pool reconstruction, expansion of the parking lot, and repositioning of the spa away from the bathhouses as well as modifying and expansion of said bathhouses.

Lake Thoreau pool was closed last year for renovations that are expected to be completed in the fall of 2022. A grand opening is being planned for May or June 2023, the beginning of the pool season.

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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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Lake Thoreau Pool concept design as of June 2021 (via Reston Association)

Designs for the $3.5 million renovation of Lake Thoreau pool were approved by the Reston Association Design Review Board last night (June 22), keeping the project on track for construction in the fall.

The board ratified several key design elements, including a re-working of the roof, ADA access with a ramp into the main pool, a repositioning of the spa away from the bathhouses, and a redesign of the overlook deck.

Since these plans were last brought to the design review board in March, RA staff had tweaked the roof, spa location, and additional seating for the zero-depth pool area. The update also further extended the ADA ramp into the pool, reduced the size of the overlook area, and limited the profiles of the walkways going down towards the lake.

Overall, the revised plans were met with approval and enthusiasm from the design review board.

A substantial portion of the discussion was around the roof line and architecture of the new pool house. The concept that was agreed upon — called concept 2a — included vertical columns, which are mostly for aesthetics.

“[It] has a little more architectural detail than the other ones, which are more simple overhangs,” said Michael Wood, architect and Design Review Board member. “Our pool houses are all unique at all of our pools. So, to me, that’s a good stance.”

RA Director of Capital Projects Chris Schumaker said that staff is “continuing to refine” the pool house’s interior layout to accommodate storage and provide better accessibility to patrons.

“We tweaked the front office to provide a more welcoming entryway,” Schumaker said.

There are also plans for a pollinator garden, “artistic” birdhouses, and public art.

“We are working with the public art community right now…to come up with some request for proposals,” Schumaker said.

Now that the plan has passed the design review board, the next step is to get the RA Board of Directors’ approval. Then, RA plans to hire a contractor that will provide its own insight and expertise before sending the designs to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

RA hopes to get a contractor approved by the RA Board by August or September, but the multi-million dollar pool renovation has hit several recent roadblocks, including soaring material costs and a lack of contractor availability.

The project’s cost has also been a sore spot ever since it began last year.

Nonetheless, with this approval, construction could still potentially start in October or November, with completion anticipated in the fall of 2022 and a grand reopening at the beginning of the 2023 pool season.

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The $3.5 million renovation of Reston Association’s Lake Thoreau pool has hit more roadblocks, this time due to lack of contractor availability and soaring material costs.

Already three months behind initial estimates, an October groundbreaking remains the official goal, but there’s a likelihood that the date will be pushed back again.

“Due to the volatility of the construction market, narrowing down the final estimate for this project is challenging,” RA spokesperson Mike Leone told Reston Now in an email. “Assuming the timeline holds, construction would start around October but there is a possibility it could be pushed into November.”

RA recently sent out requests to 10 contractors for pre-qualifying bids on the project, but the association received only two responses.

“This is a little bit disappointing, but indicative of the market that many, many contractors are very, very busy,” Chief Operating Officer Larry Butler said at RA’s Board of Directors meeting last Thursday (May 27).

Butler said the hope is to bring on a contractor when the project design and development are 80% complete, so the contractor can provide their own insight and expertise before sending it to Fairfax County for approval.

Leone says it’s expected that a contract with a general contractor will be ready for review and approval by the RA board in August or September.

Another element currently complicating the project is fast-rising material costs. Butler notes that the $3.5 million project budget was established prior to the recent spike in material costs.

“Here’s a really crazy example…There’s a lot of piping in pools. PVC costs are up 270% from March 2020 to March 2021,” Butler explained.

The hope is that prices will stabilize and drop, but “it’s an ever-moving target,” he says.

The overall cost of the renovations and the means of paying for them have been an ongoing source of conflict since the project first started in late 2019. The project is now rather lean, though at least one RA board member was asking about the potential for further cuts.

The issues with the Lake Thoreau renovations come as RA contemplates raising member assessments and, possibly, repurposing other pools  due to ongoing budgetary challenges.

Key design elements being added or modified at Lake Thoreau pool include ADA access to the main pool, re-working of the roof geometry, a zero-depth area, a repositioning of the spa away from the bathhouses, and a redesign of the overlook deck. A pollinator garden will also be added near the parking lot.

The renovations are expected to be completed about a year after construction begins, so that could be in October or November 2022. A grand reopening of Lake Thoreau pool is anticipated in May 2023.

However, Leone cautions that the timing could change.

“If the start of construction is delayed for whatever reason, then there is a chance the grand re-opening could be delayed,” he told Reston Now.

Photo via Reston Association

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The Reston Association Board of Directors is set to discuss increasing member assessments, potentially by as much as $40, at upcoming work sessions in preparation to draft the 2022 budget.

At a board meeting last Thursday (May 27), CEO Hank Lynch laid out factors, questions, and known expenses that will affect the upcoming budget, which will be discussed and drafted later this summer.

His report led to the conclusion that an assessment increase will likely be needed, along with possible cuts and ways to increase non-assessment revenue. The assessment is currently at $718.

Further discussion about what this increase could look like, including a proposed percentage range that the RA board would be comfortable with, will happen at upcoming work sessions. The first one is set for June 8.

Lynch said that the potential increase isn’t needed to add new items to the budget, but rather, to catch up on projects from the previous year.

“We are not planning, right now, any new programs or services,” said Lynch. “Mainly, we are trying to get things we had in the pipeline last year that we couldn’t do because of COVID up and running this year. We are not looking to do new things for 2022.”

A huge impact on the budget is an increase in operating expenses, particularly staff pay increases, hiring, staff turnover, and RA’s insurance policy.

Lynch authorized a compensation study by the human resources firm Archer Company in 2019. The study concluded that staff pay increases were needed for better retention and recruitment.

Adopting the study’s recommendations would cost an additional $400,000, according to a table that Lynch presented at last week’s meeting. There are also four new positions that have been requested to be filled, which would cost $430,000.

Overall, adding in the statewide minimum wage increase as well as rising costs for staff benefits, Lynch projects that RA can anticipate approximately $705,000 in new staffing expenses for 2022, even with some savings from higher-than-normal staff turnover.

There’s also a potential for an increase in the cost of RA’s insurance policy, bringing the total dollars expected to be added to the operating budget to nearly $850,000.

Without finding cuts or generating more non-assessment revenue, the additional operating expenses would mean a 6% increase, or nearly $40, in annual assessment fees for members, according to Lynch.

That’s four times the increase that was approved last year. Read More

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Reston Association is relaxing COVID-related pool restrictions starting Memorial Day weekend.

Beginning Friday (May 28), RA pools will go back to full, pre-COVID capacity, RA spokesperson Mike Leone told Reston Now in an email.

This comes as the state and the county will also completely lift capacity restrictions for outdoor pools starting May 28.

However, RA plans to honor reservations made for Memorial Day weekend, since it had instituted a reservation system for that time period prior to the county and state announcements.

“Our priority will be to honor all Members with reservations through May 31st,” Leone clarified in an email. “If there is available capacity at a pool after Members with reservations arrive, those without reservations will be permitted to use the pool until it reaches capacity limits.”

Beginning June 1, the majority of RA pool facilities will open with no reservations required.

Due to popular demand, though, RA will continue to have lap swim and water fitness reservations at some locations throughout the summer. If space is available, walk-ins will be permitted.

Physical and social distancing will also no longer be enforced starting June 1, but RA is asking residents “to be mindful of personal space.”

RA will also still require masks inside its facilities, regardless of whether a resident is fully vaccinated or not. Masks are not required, though, when patrons are in the water, eating, drinking, and exercising, or for people who have a medical exception.

Virginia and Fairfax County both are no longer requiring masks in most settings for those who are fully vaccinated.

Five more RA pools will be opening on Saturday (May 29), joining the North Shore and Ridge Height heated pools, which both opened on May 15. Then, the rest of the RA pools will open for the season on June 12.

Pool season is getting underway as debate heightens about the possible “repurposing” or, even, closure of a number of pools.

Last week, RA staff recommended that Golf Course Island, Newbridge, Tall Oaks, and Shadowood pools be “seriously considered for repurposing” due to their low usage. RA CEO Hank Lynch is scheduled to further discuss his budget recommendations at the board of directors meeting on Thursday (May 27).

A recent year-long evaluation by RA’s recreation facilities work group found that a number of decades-old facilities, including some pools, are in need of a considerable amount of work and repairs.

RA recently renovated several of these pools, including an ongoing $3.5 million facelift for Lake Thoreau and a resurfacing of Glade pool’s slide.

Tall Oaks and Shadowood are both currently closed due to ongoing renovations.

Photo courtesy of Reston Association

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(Updated at 2:30 p.m. on 5/19/2021) Reston Association staff is recommending that four pools be “seriously considered for repurposing” due to low usage.

Pool usage will be discussed at a joint work session with the RA board and Recreation Facilities Working Group on Thursday (May 20), along with budgetary recommendations based on findings that the working group presented in late February.

Two decades of data that RA CEO Hank Lynch will present at the work session show that Golf Course Island, Newbridge, Tall Oaks, and Shadowood pools all have lower usage compared to RA’s 11 other pools.

As a result, staff recommends that RA consider “repurposing” the facilities. Tall Oaks and Shadowood are both currently closed for ongoing capital improvement projects.

With pools now open for the 2021 season, the staff recommendations come on the heels of a year-long evaluation by the recreation facilities work group that found a number of decades-old facilities are in need of work and repairs.

The group noted in its report that funding for these capital projects may not be sustainable without a significant increase in members’ annual assessment.

Over the next decade, RA is scheduled to spend about $40 million to operate, maintain, and address capital improvement needs on its 15 pools and more than 50 tennis courts, according to Thursday’s work session presentation.

When asked to comment about what could happen to these specific pools, RA spokesperson Mike Leone told Reston Now in an email that their fate has yet to be determined:

The Facility Working Group’s work session is simply the start of the process. During the work session participants will review the Recreation & Facilities Working Group findings and recommendations on RA’s recreation facilities and the long term operational, maintenance and capital costs for such facilities. ‘Repurposing’ of some facilities may be a consideration and any decision to do so down the road, will require significant community input and discussion, involve RA’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee and would be the decision of the Board of Directors.

When asked if “repurposing” could mean the potential closing of those pools, Leone demurred.

“‘Repurposing’ could mean reimaging the space for a different type of amenity or use of interest to members,'” he wrote.

In general, pool usage has dropped by about 37% over the last decade, according to the work group’s data. Every pool except for Dogwood and Glade has seen a decrease in usage since 2010.

The four pools that have seen the least frequent usage as of 2019, Golf Course Island, Newbridge, Tall Oaks, and Shadowood were all built between 1969 and 1976, making them three to four decades old. It has cost about $9.6 million in total to maintain and operate them over the last 10 years.

In total, RA has spent about $33 million on pool maintenance and operations since 2010.

Budgetary concerns and lower usage aside, a number of community members told Reston Now that they want those four pools to remain open, saying they value their neighborhood pools and believe that recent usage statistics alone do not tell the full story.

Golf Course Square Cluster Association President Elmer Reinhardt says that 400 units would be affected by the repurposing or closing of the Newbridge pool.

“Newbridge pool is the only pool in Reston that you don’t have to cross a through-street to get to it,” he said. “The children can walk to that pool without ever crossing a highway, and we think that’s important.”

A resident of the community for more than 40 years, Reinhardt says he believes the recent lower usage has more to do with the population being cyclical.

“We’re seeing a huge influx of young families into our neighborhoods now and those are the ones that use the pools,” he said.

He argues that it would be shortsighted to make a decision to repurpose or close certain pools based just on recent data.

“[The demographics] change every 10 to 15 years. One year, you’ll only see wheelchairs being pushed on the sidewalks and, the next, only strollers,” he said.

RA has recently renovated several of their pools, including an ongoing and much-discussed $3.5 million facelift for Lake Thoreau. This spring, Glade pool’s slide was resurfaced, and new lighting was added.

The presentation suggests that a “seasonal indoor racket sports facility should be considered,” along with amenities sought by new RA members.

Currently, a conversation about pools is currently not on the agenda for the RA Board of Directors meeting on May 27, Leone confirms.

However, there remains a possibility that it could be added to the agenda prior to the meeting, and members can discuss it during the meeting’s comment period if they wish.

Photo courtesy Reston Association

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(Updated at 12:55 p.m.)

Monday, May 10

  • Learn Sumi-e (6-7 p.m.) — Sumi-e is a Japanese art form that uses ink and water to create a calligraphy type of painting. Take a virtual class on this art through the Thomas Jefferson Library in Falls Church. All materials are picked up and returned to the library.

Tuesday, May 11

  • Super Snakes (10 a.m.) — Don’t worry, there’s no Marvel movie about super snakes (yet). Join a naturalist from the Fairfax County Park Authority to learn about the snakes that slither through our region. Then, head out to Burke Lake Park to go find some.

Wednesday, May 12

  • Village Centers of Reston (7-8:30 p.m.) — Join the Reston Historic Trust and Museum for a virtual presentation on the history of village centers. It will feature archival materials from the museum’s collections, as they continue to embrace the future to explain the past.

Thursday, May 13

  • X-Wing Lands At Smithsonian (10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) — The X-Wing flown by Poe Dameron in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has landed at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly. It’s in the restoration hanger and can be seen by the public while it undergoes inspection, conservation, and cleaning before heading off to a galaxy far, far, away — that is, D.C. where it will hang in the museum downtown starting late next year.

Friday, May 14

  • First Date (8 p.m.) — In NextStop Theatre’s first return to the stage since the pandemic, follow Casey and Aaron on their first date through the Town of Herndon.
  • Drive-In Movie Night (7:15 p.m.) — Catch a free drive-in movie at Reston Hospital to honor Nurses and Hospital week. The movie will be “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and there’s space for 150 cars.

Saturday, May 15

  • RA Pools Opening (1 p.m) — It’s finally pool season, even if the weather remains a bit cool. The first two of Reston Association’s 12 pools opens this weekend for the season. And, don’t worry, the pools are heated.
  • Tour de Hunter Mill (8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.) — Join this community bike ride around the district to reacquaint oneself with the hidden treasures, cultural, and environmental resources in the area. It’s the inaugural ride and also a chance to peddle around with Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

Sunday, May 16

  • Virginia Psychic Fair (9 a.m.) — Some of the area’s most well-known psychics, mediums, healers, and readers of all types will be on hand at the Virginia Psychic Fair held at the Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge in Fairfax. The fair is for the serious-minded and those just curious alike. Masks are required.
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Reston pools are reopening for the season starting May 15 with similar restrictions and guidelines as last summer.

The heated pools at North Shore and Ridge Heights will be the first two to reopen. The rest of the Reston Association’s 12 available pools will open in phases on May 29, June 1, and June 12.

Like last summer, reservations will be required, even for open swim, so that the pools can limit capacity and maintain 10-foot social distancing requirements.

Residents will be able to book two-hour blocks for open swim and one-hour blocks for each lap swim and water fitness.

A registration system will open on May 10 at 9 a.m., allowing reservations to be booked on a rolling basis one week in advance of each day.

This is how RA plans to operate the pools for the moment, but it could change later in the summer, RA Director of Communications Mike Leone wrote in an email to Reston Now.

“The situation remains fluid and RA will continue to monitor it as we move into the later spring and summer,” Leone said. “It’s possible the procedures could change if the Governor further relaxes social distancing and gathering restrictions, but for now we are following similar guidelines as last summer.”

Cleaning protocols instituted last summer will still be in effect, according to Reston Aquatics.

All spas, hot tubs, and spray features will remain closed, in accordance with a March 23 Executive Order from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Starting on May 15, North Shore Heated Pool will be open on Mondays through Fridays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ridge Heights Heated Pool will also be open on Mondays through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Leone says that the opening dates for specific pools is based on known activity levels, and the timing of all the pools’ openings corresponds with the beginning of summer break for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Besides a high number of students using the pools, RA aligns the pool openings with school dismissals, because local high school students are often hired for lifeguard positions. Hiring enough lifeguards has been a challenge in the past.

Below are the opening dates for the rest of the available RA pools:

May 29

  • Dogwood
  • Glade
  • Lake Newport

June 1

  • Golf Course Island
  • Lake Audubon
  • Newbridge
  • North Hills

June 12

  • Autumnwood
  • Hunters Wood
  • Uplands

Three of RA’s pools — Lake Thoreau, Shadowood and Tall Oaks — are closed due to capital improvements, according to the website.

The new Lake Thoreau pool is set for a groundbreaking in October with a likely reopening in May 2023. Shadowood is also expected to undergo a full-scale renovation, and Tall Oaks has had past issues with contamination.

Image via Reston Association/YouTube

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The Reston Association’s Recreation Facility Work Group has determined that a number of decades-old facilities are in need of work, and a “significant increase” in funding is required for the improvements.

The Reston work group released its findings and recommendations on Wednesday (March 10) after undertaking a year-long, comprehensive evaluation of Reston’s recreational facilities, including pools, lakes, and tennis and pickleball courts. The review focused on the condition, use, and associated costs of the facilities.

The nine-member work group determined that, while past development was “generous” in terms of providing facilities, many are now more than 30 years old and are in need of improvements.

However, funding and the cost of those capital projects may not be “sustainable” without a “significant increase to the annual assessment,” which is $718 for 2021.

According to the findings, the costs of operating and making capital improvements on pools and tennis courts are projected to top $22 million over the next five years and $37 million over the next 10 years, despite pool usage trending downwards and maintenance projects generally staying on track.

The group also focused on lake access and determined that there’s currently a lack of lakeside facilities.

Another major recommendation is that an updated Reston Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan is needed. The most recent plan was established in 2005, more than 15 years ago. Often master plans of this nature are done every decade.

The work group recommends that the Reston Association hire a professional parks and recreation firm to develop the master plan in consultation with RA staff.

The need for a new plan should be a “priority” in future budget considerations, the work group notes.

Photo via Reston Association/Facebook

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