Reston Association: No Immediate Plans to Close Lake Thoreau Pool for 2020 Season

Reston Association has no immediate plans to temporarily or permanently close Lake Thoreau Pool, contrary to community speculation that the pool is set to shutter due to low usage next year.

The future of the pool — which is in need of major renovations and has struggled with comparatively low utilization — has been the focus of discussion over the last several years. Last year, one RA board members said the pool was “falling into the lake.”

So far, staff and the Board of Director have had no formal conversations to discuss any and all operational and capital costs associated with pools for next year’s season, said RA’s spokesman Mike Leone.

An August 8 email from Julie Bitzer, the board’s vice president, about the fate of the pool has attracted recent community concern. Some RA members circulated a flyer indicating that the pool would be closed next year as RA examines whether it should pursue renovation or consider another use of the space.

Leone said that speculation was simply a “rumor.”

RA is in the early phases of its budget development process. As part of ongoing discussions, board and staff are gathering data on the utilization and of RA’s community pools and other recreational amenities.

The organization’s analysis of its recreational facilities will help RA determine if and how future amenities will be impacted by closures, renovations or other changes.

A budget workshop on the first draft of the 2020-2021 budget is set for August 21 at RA headquarters (12000 Sunrise Valley Drive). A series of meetings, including public hearings, will precede the adoption of the budget in November.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Vandals Dump Feces into Glade Pool, Other Pools Vandalized

Several Reston Association pools were closed over the weekend due to vandalism.

Vandals hit pools including Newbridge, Dogwood, Ridge Heights, Shadowood and Lake Thoreau, said RA spokesman Mike Leone. No major physical damage was reported.

The most significant vandalism happened at Glade Pool. RA staff worked to remove feces found in the pool over the weekend, Leone said.

The pool was closed an additional day to ensure the water was free of contaminants, per the county’s health guidelines.

The closure of the pool today comes as RA switches to season four of its pool schedule. It is expected to reopen tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11 a.m.

Leone described the vandalism at other pools as “minor.” Staff quickly worked to remove items that were thrown into the pools, which resumed regular operations on Sunday.

File photo

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Firefighters Jump Into Herndon Pool for Survival, Water Rescue Training

Recent pool-goers at the Pinecrest Swim and Tennis Club in Herndon might have noticed firefighters wearing their gear and uniforms for training in the water.

Units from the First Battalion on B-Shift completed various activities for self-survival and victim water rescue training, according to a Fairfax County Fire and Rescue post.

“All personnel swam two laps of the pool giving unit officers the ability to evaluate the swimming skills of each member,” according to the post. “This is valuable information to have ahead of being called to a water-related emergency as the officer now knows who their strong swimmers are and who to place in the water for victim rescue.”

More from the fire department:

Personnel then participated in backboard training with the lifeguard staff from the pool. They learned the actions lifeguards take to secure a victim to a backboard when they are suspected of a spinal injury from a pool mishap.

Finally, personnel donned structural firefighting gear and walked off the pool’s edge into the water to feel the impact of falling into [the] water while wearing the protective clothing.

Firefighters conduct a variety of tasks inside and outside a structure while operating at a house fire and many of the residences have swimming pools. A firefighter falling into the water with gear on poses a significant safety concern due to the added weight as the gear tends to pull firefighters under the water. The training today was conducted to provide firefighters with techniques on how to react and exit a pool should they face this situation while operating on an incident scene.

Photo via Fairfax County Fire and Rescuefire

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State Fined Reston Association for Child Labor Law Violations Last Year

The state fined Reston Association $12,000 for violating child labor laws late last year.

The state’s Department of Labor and Industry issued fines in October 2018 after an investigation found “numerous violations” regarding minors employed as aquatics attendants or lifeguards, according to an August 2018 inspection report obtained by Reston Now.

Child labor law violations included minors working more than eight hours a day and more than 40 hours a week. The investigation also found that some minors were working without any indicated breaks, employment certificates or lifeguard certificates.

The most common violation cited in the investigation was allowing minors to work more than eight hours a day. Virginia’s child labor laws allow minors between ages 14 and 15 to work a maximum of eight hours per day on a non-school day. Work hours depend on school schedules and the type of occupation.

Mike Leone, RA’s spokesperson, declined to release any information about the citation, including whether or not it was disputed by RA or how RA is working to ensure issues flagged by the investigation do not occur again.

“As previously communicated, RA does not comment publicly on personnel-related matters,” Leone wrote in an email. Additionally, RA’s policy states that only RA’s board president, CEO and spokesperson are authorized to speak to media.

Sources told Reston Now that the investigation was discussed in closed session during a Board of Directors meeting at a date that was not identified.

In recent years, RA has struggled to staff pools due to a shortage of lifeguards — an issue that is part of an industry-wide shortage of lifeguards.

Due to the lack of qualified candidates, some aquatics facilities were changing hours or closing facilities as they step up efforts to hire for seasonal positions.

Staff shortages when schools were in session prompted the closures of several pools operated by RA. Leone told Reston Now the shortages were resolved on June 23 when 14 of the 15 pools operated by RA were open. New applicants were on-boarded and completed training courses, and more employees were available due to the end of the school year, Leone said.

A source familiar with the state’s labor law investigation and on-boarding of lifeguards, however, said that part of the reason for delays in opening the pools was because lifeguards did not have required safety certifications to begin working — an issue that was spotted by administrative staff “far too late” once pools were already scheduled to open. Certifications were expired or still in the process of being received, the source said.

Others chose not to return due to alleged mismanagement of aquatics facilities.

“Some people felt they were overworked and thrown into the job without on-boarding,” a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal, said.

Leone said that some staff members were unable to begin working or register for courses due to personal schedules and commitments until the end of the school year. Once courses were completed, the shortage was alleviated.

“In light of our short window of operation (four months [from] May-Sept.) and onboarding process, we do conduct some interviews prior to applicants’ completion of lifeguard training classes for efficiency to avoid delays, an offer is contingent upon completion of the certification course and skill assessment,” Leone wrote.

As the number of lifeguard applicants has declined over the last five years, RA moved to change staffing structures by hiring desk attendants and pool operators to serve as stand-alone positions from lifeguards.

In the future, RA plans to address staff shortages at pools by exploring increases in hourly rates for lifeguards, changes to the pool schedules during peak hours and other recruitment and retention efforts.

Photo by vantagehill/Flickr

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Newly Renovated Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center to Reopen in November

The nine-month renovation of the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center is gearing up for its final stages. It will likely reopen in early November.

The 40-year-old center is receiving a makeover that adds two pools — a 25-yard lap pool and a warm-water therapeutic pool — along with a new roof.

In June, work on the new roof continues and the two pools are beginning to take shape. Work on plumbing and changes to designed mechanical systems has also been underway.

The deepest part of therapy pool is 750 square feet and is designed for 15 people for aqua aerobics and other exercise. The shallow side of the pool has about 900 square feet of usable area for aquatic programming. Because the overall area is not a rectangle, a class of 20 people can be accommodated.

RCC staff are planning to develop a schedule to reopen pools. Project completion is scheduled for October and pool reopening is scheduled for early November. The center is also looking to hire lifeguards and instructors.

Photos via Reston Community Center

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Pool Closures Continue as Reston Association Looks to Hire More Lifeguards

Several of Reston Association’s 15 pools will be closed for the second weekend in a row due to a shortage of lifeguards. The association is working actively to hire more lifeguards and closed some pools this weekend due to safety precautions.

After closures over Memorial Day weekend, all aquatics facilities except Lake Thoreau pool, were open as scheduled during the weekdays. Lake Thoreau’s pool opened Thursday evening after shattered glass was found inside the pool over the weekend. RA believes the pool was vandalized.

The following pools will be closed tomorrow (June 1):

  • Autumnwood
  • Golf Course Island
  • Lake Audubon
  • Newbridge
  • Shadowood

The following pools will be closed on Sunday (June 2):

  • Dogwood
  • Golf Course Island
  • Shadowood
  • Tall Oaks

In a statement, RA’s CEO Hank Lynch apologized for the closures.

“Like many community and recreational associations in our area, RA is trying to meet the challenge of hiring staff for various summertime positions,” he wrote.

RA will host one or two job fairs to hire staff for its pools, typically high school and college students. The organization adjusts its seasonal pool schedule to coincide with the availability of students who are off from school. Interested applicants can apply online.

Photo by Leslie Sogandares

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Reston Association Grapples with Lifeguard Shortage for Pools

Several pools suddenly closed over the holiday weekend when Reston Association announced that it did not have enough lifeguards to staff several of the 15 pools the organization manages.

Now, RA is moving aggressively to hire more lifeguards ahead of the weekend in what is becoming an annual and familiar staffing challenge. The problem was exacerbated by several lifeguards who called in sick over the weekend, according to RA.

In the past, RA has changed the staffing structure so that lifeguards are standalone positions. Duties previous performed by lifeguards are separated into other positions like desk attendant and pool operator. Staff are also exploring increasing the pay for lifeguards and changing the pool schedule for peak hours.

There are many competing opportunities for summer employment in this area to include summer internships, family schedules and vacations, restaurants, other services and with growth in the area other summer jobs are available at a higher salary. Ten years ago, this was not the case, a lifeguarding job was sought out with our roster filled and substitutes waiting for an opportunity for a full time role,” Mike Leone, RA’s director of communications, marketing and member services wrote in s statement to Reston Now.

RA is hiring for 200 full-time lifeguards positions and unlimited substitute positions. So far, 156 people have applied.

Leone also attributed the shortage to an overall reduction in the number of teens between age 16 and 19 who are actively participating in the workforce. 

But staffing was not the only reason that pools closed over the weekend.

All pool are currently open, but Lake Thoreau’s pool remains closed after staff found broken glass bottles on the deck and in the pool over the weekend. RA believes vandalism happened sometime between the overnight hours of Friday to Saturday.

The pool will reopen once a scuba diver inspects the facility and clears it for reopening. Divers are expected to begin work early this week, but it’s unclear when the pool will reopen.

Uplands lap pool also closed temporarily after some equipment failed over the weekend. The issue has now been resolved and all areas of the pool are now open.

In a statement, RA’s CEO Hank Lynch apologized for the closures.

“Like many community and recreational associations in our area, RA is trying to meet the challenge of hiring staff for various summertime positions,” he said.

So far, no changes to the weekend pool schedule are proposed. RA plans to update members about the weekend schedule as the week progresses.

A job fair to recruit more lifeguards is set for Thursday (May 30) at 6 p.m. at Newbridge Pool and June 13 at 4 p.m. at Lake Newport Pool.

RA’s recruitment strategy also includes emailing local sports groups, working with local universities, turning to social media, and providing information during community events.

File photo

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Lifeguard Shortage Prompts Pool Schedule Change — RA changed the schedule of its pools over the weekend due to an unexpected shortage of lifeguards. The organization is actively hiring lifeguards for this year’s season. A job fair is set for Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at a local pool. [Reston Association]

The Washington Post Releases Endorsements for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors — The paper endorsed Walter Alcorn for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, calling him a “formidable land-use expert.” [The Washington Post]

INOVA Blood Drive is Today — Stop by the bloodmobile truck next to the pavilion at Reston Town Center to date blood between 1 and 6 p.m. today. Registration is available online and on site. [Reston Town Center]

Explore Reston Association’s Home Inspection Process — Dive into the exterior inspection process that is required by RA before selling your home. [Reston Today]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Reston Association Completes Upgrades to Pools Ahead of Summer Season

Restonians returning the Reston Association’s pools will see several upgrades this season, especially at the Lake Newport Pool (11601 Lake Newport Road).

That pool, which opens May 25, closed last summer for several improvements, including a new pool plaster surface, new pool tiles, and new sinks, countertops and flooring tiles in the bathhouse. Plumbing was also redone for the bathhouse system, according to Nate Wheeler, RA’s aquatics facility supervisor.

A new 50-meter lane was also added to the pool, which will be open from noon to 8 p.m. on weekends and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. The pool is closed on Fridays.

Wheeler said that this year has been a “big year” for spas as well. New plaster surface was installed at the spas at Glade, North Hills, and Hunters Woods. The spa at North Shore was rebuilt to address an underground leak.

The circulation equipment for the fountain at Uplands was replaced as well, Wheeler said.

“We’re looking forward to having people enjoy the bright colors and smoother operations all summer,” he said.

Pool passes can be renewed online. This year’s pool schedule is also available on RA’s website. The aquatics facilities at North Shore and Ridge Heights are the first to open this season on May 11.

Photo by Reston Association/YouTube

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Artist Creating Mosaic Public Art for RCC’s Aquatics Center Revamp

(Updated) Reston will welcome a new public art piece when the Reston Community Center debuts its newly renovated Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center in the fall.

RCC chose mosaic artist Valerie Theberge to create mosaic artwork for two large wall panels adjacent to the pool overlook area.

RCC’s Executive Director Leila Gordon told Reston Now that having Theberge on board from the start of the renovation, which will update the 40-year-old aquatics center with two pools, allows for the engineers, designers and the artist to plan how the wall with the art will look and get used, with conversations ranging from color palettes to electrical engineering decisions.

Theberge has been working with the project team, which includes RCC’s Deputy Director John Blevins and Martha Sansaver, Karen Davis and Geoff Kimmel from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services and the contracting firm Branch Builds — previously named Branch & Associates.

Currently, Theberge is in the preliminary design stages for the art, which will occupy two main panels that are about 50 square feet each.

“I keep getting snapshots of what’s going to come and it keeps percolating, because we have been talking about this for a year,” she told Reston Now. “It will be strong and vocal.”

Unlike her previous mosaic art at the Glade Drive Underpass and the Dogwood Pool, Theberge says this piece is influenced by its different location, one that she describes as indoors, focused on people instead of nature and “white, clean, quiet.”

“The other ones are very earth-centered and this is very water-centered,” Theberge said, adding that she plans to add “sparklers” so that viewers will feel movement in the art.

In a group interview with Reston Now, Theberge and Gordon shared different elements that stand out to them about the aquatics center, including the contrast between the water’s buoyancy and the hard surfaces on the ground, the windowless cave-esque location, the polarity between the exterior and interior worlds and the action of people stripping off layers of clothing before they get into the water. While some of those evocative ideas might sound harsh or vulnerable, Gordon emphasized that “it is hard to be hostile in the presence of art.”

Once Theberge has a design, she said she will build the two pieces in her studio before they get bolted onto the wall.

Once installed, community engagement activities and art workshops will allow Restonians to respond to the art. “It’s not one monolithic swimming community. There are families. There are older adults. There are swim teams, and every one of those groups of people have different desires,” Gordon said.

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Town of Herndon Considering Hiking Fees for Facility Use

The Town of Herndon may slightly increase the fees for facility uses and rentals while eliminating its use of the Fairfax County Park Authority’s fee structure.

Herndon’s Parks and Recreation Department provides for community-use facilities at the Herndon Community Center, which includes a pool, gym, tennis courts, fitness rooms and drop-in child care.

For about 12 years, the Parks and Recreation facilities fee schedule has included a pricing structure for community center admission fees and passes tied to the Fairfax County Park Authority rates.

A department review of current services and operational costs prompted the Town Council to rethink its use of FCPA rates.

“Staff is proposing that structure be revised to eliminate the connection to FCPA due to the significant increase in their proposed non-resident rates, which would be detrimental to a large percentage of Herndon Community Center users,” the Parks and Recreation staff report says.

The Town Council now has a proposed resolution that would base the fees on a daily resident/non-resident fee. The change is expected to recover 75 percent of the department’s operating costs through fees and charges for services, according to the Town of Herndon.

The new fee would add $0.50 more to the daily rate for both residents and non-residents.

If approved, the amended fee schedule would go into effect on Sept. 1.

Images via Google Maps and Town of Herndon

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Reminder: Restonians Can Buy Their Pool and Tennis Passes

Spring is still about two weeks away, but the Reston Association wants locals to start thinking about warmer weather activities.

The Restonian Association recently took to YouTube to remind Restonians — members and nonmembers of the association — that they can purchase pool and tennis court passes.

The passes give access to the Reston Association’s 52 outdoor tennis courts and 15 pools. They can be purchased online or at the Reston Association’s Member Services Office (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).

The two heated pools open early May before the other pools, according to the RA. The tennis courts stay open year-round — weather permitting.

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New Year, New Pool: What’s in Store for RCC’s Aquatics Center

The Reston Community Center kicked off the more than $5 million renovation of the Reston Community Center’s Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center today (Jan. 2).

Contractor Branch & Associates started the work today on the project, which will update the 40-year-old aquatics center with two pools.

After the final open swim time ended yesterday, the process of draining the pool began.

That process starts with neutralizing the pool water for several days to allow chlorine to dissipate before slowly draining the water, ensuring that it does not erode stream banks downstream of the pool.

“Draining the water is a controlled process to avoid overwhelming any part of the surrounding environment,” RCC’s Executive Director Leila Gordon who said that the team will follow strict environmental standards throughout the process.

In addition to Gordon, the project team includes Branch Project Manager Bill Ruschaupt, RCC’s Deputy Director John Blevins and Martha Sansaver, Karen Davis and Geoff Kimmel from DPWES.

Branch & Associates was selected as the contracting firm for the project after Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services opened a pre-bid qualification process in October.

RCC chose mosaic artist Valerie Theberge to create a mosaic artwork installation for the large wall areas adjacent to the pool overlook area.

Gordon said that the new artwork by Theberge — the artist behind the Glade Drive underpass and a mosaic water feature at Dogwood Pool — will “add to Reston’s wonderful public art collection.”

The renovated facility, designed by RRMM-Lukmire Architects, will include a 25-yard lap pool with zero-depth entry, a warm-water therapeutic pool, updated infrastructure systems and a new roof. It is slated to reopen in the fall.

During the construction period, Reston patrons can receive discounted rates, which are offered through RCCs’ partnership with the YMCA Fairfax County RestonReston Association and Herndon Community Center.

Renderings via Reston Community Center

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Take One Last Splash Before Work Begins on Reston Community Center’s Aquatics Center

Take one last splash in the pool at Reston Community Center’s Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center before it closes for renovations.

Built in 1979, the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center will undergo a more than $5 million renovation starting on Jan. 2.

The pool area is expected to reopen in October, featuring an expanded lap pool with a zero-depth entry and water play area and another pool for warm-water therapy, exercise and teaching.

During the construction period, Reston patrons can receive discounted rates, which are offered through RCCs’ partnership with the YMCA Fairfax County Reston, Reston Association and Herndon Community Center. Patrons can pick up a “Construction Pass” at RCC’s Customer Service desks to take to the partner locations and get special rates.

“The Last Splash Aquatics Renovation Party” is set for Friday (Dec. 28) from noon to 9:00 p.m. Admission is $1. The pool party will include open swimming with games and races, music, a farewell gift and a graffiti wall for locals to pen their pool goodbyes.

Rendering via Reston Community Center

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Friday Morning Notes

Family splash tonight at Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center — Drop-in for a night of family fun at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods. The entry fee is $13 for Reston residents and $26 for all others. Groups of six or more must pre-register. [Reston Regional Library]

Off to the jungle — Reston’s Gin Dance Company has been invited to perform at the 18th DUMBO Dance Festival, a prestigious dance festival in New York City. It’s the second year the modern dance company will perform at the festival. [The Connection]

New school sexual misconduct policy — The Fairfax County School Board adopted a new policy yesterday that attempts to reform institutional cultures and address the underlying causes of sexual misconduct. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

A stronger second half — The South Lakes volleyball team is looking for a stronger second half. What does that mean exactly? [The Connection]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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