Proposed Pool Is Too Small, Calvert Group Says

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cornelia Poudrier felt like celebrating after the Calvert Board of County Commissioners announced plans this month to build a $9.1 million indoor pool in Prince Frederick. She envisioned taking her children to an Olympic-size pool, an enormous complex with many amenities that could serve all segments of the community.

But she became upset once she learned the proposed size of the pool: 25 yards long and six lanes wide.

"It's way too small to meet all the needs of the community," Poudrier said. "That's not what people were expecting."

That was the consensus view of about 35 people who gathered Tuesday evening at a meeting organized by Citizens for an Aquatic/Recreation Community Complex, a group formed recently to lobby for an indoor pool in the county.

"There was a shared understanding that seemed to arise that it was very doubtful that the pool size as envisioned was going to be adequate," said Marie Andrews, the coordinator of the group.

Now many of the same people who have supported the county's decade-long effort to build an indoor pool oppose the 17,355-square-foot complex, which would be built on the College of Southern Maryland's Prince Frederick campus.

Elaine Ryan, the college's president, said the pool would stretch 25 yards by 15 yards.

A typical Olympic-size swimming pool is 50 meters by 25 meters, or about 55 yards by 27 yards. That's almost four times the size of the pool proposed for Prince Frederick.

Poudrier, the founder of Calvert Neighbors for Sensible Growth, a group formed primarily to push for limits on the size of "big-box" retail stores, said the commissioners should table the plans until they can afford to build a larger pool.

But it's not clear whether the board would agree to increase funding for the project. Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby) said he would not support any additional money for an indoor pool at the Prince Frederick campus.

"Sometimes you've got to stay within your budget," he said. "There's only so much money, and there's a lot of projects that the county needs to build."

Ryan said she is not sure there is enough room at the Prince Frederick campus for an Olympic-size pool. "I really have no clue," she said. "My guess would be that it would be possible, but that's just a guess."

Even if there is sufficient space, Ryan said, she was not sure that the college or the county would allocate the funding to build a larger pool.

"We have a very clearly stated budget number to work toward, and that budget doesn't include an Olympic pool," she said.

Some supporters of a larger pool said there is no way that a six-lane pool can accommodate all the potential users in the county: high school swim teams, recreational swimmers, children taking lessons, and people involved in search and rescue training.

"This is going to be a management nightmare," Poudrier said. "They could be having high school kids getting their swim practice hours at 9:30 at night on a school night."

Joe Nisonger, 82, of Scientists Cliffs said he is worried that the pool as proposed would be a huge disappointment for the community.

"They are talking about putting a lot of money into this," he said. "Perhaps with not too much more money they could make the pool adequate."

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