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Fenty Kicks Off Swim Season But Stays Dry

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) ditched the annual cannonball dive made popular by his predecessor and blew a whistle instead yesterday, marking the start of the summer recreational pool program.

At Fenty's signal, four D.C. Wave Swim Team members and a half-dozen scuba divers jumped into the Langdon Park pool. The divers were there to promote swimming and to encourage young people to learn snorkeling and scuba diving.

Instead of donning swimming trunks as former mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) had done, Fenty wore a blue dress shirt (sans tie) and left the water sports to the divers and D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5). Thomas, who represents the Langdon neighborhood, served as a lifeguard at the pool when he was a teenager.

"We will keep making more programs available," Fenty said. "We have kids playing and kids working. We've got to keep these kids busy during the summer."

Fenty said the city's Parks and Recreation Department officially opened 19 large outdoor pools, although some had been offering weekend hours since last month. Not all the city's outdoor pools were ready, however.

Two of the six "Walk to Learn" pools for children, Deanwood and J.O. Wilson, both in Northeast, will open by the end of this week, recreation officials said. Another pool for younger children, Marie Reed in Northwest Washington, has been closed for at least two years but will be repaired.

Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) said that the administration "has done a good job" opening the larger pools but that the facilities used by younger children are just as important.

The Marie Reed pool, which is on public school property, has a major leak, officials said. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said the pool should have been fixed last summer and has asked recreation officials and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority to complete the work.

"When they have that kind of leak, they have to fix it," said Jerry N. Johnson, general manager of WASA, which supplies water to the pools.

Interim recreation director Wanda S. Durden said she is working to open the pool. She said several facilities needed infrastructure repairs, including one pool in which duct tape was wrapped around a pump.

"We replaced major parts at nine of them," Durden said. "All of them needed some repairs. If it's ours, we're definitely going to fix it."

Durden said a fence and two broken doors were repaired at Kelly Miller pool. She said complaints that the pool did not have enough chlorine were unfounded.

"We're not going to ever have anyone in an unsafe pool," she said. "It's against the law not to have right amount of chemical products." She said the chemical levels are checked every 45 minutes.

Durden said that the city is spending $500,000 for after-hours security at the pools, which are open 1 to 8 p.m. during the week and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

The pools are free to District residents, in part because of a $40,000 contribution from Amerigroup Community Care, a health insurance provider.

Jose Jones, professor emeritus of marine and environmental science at the University of the District of Columbia, said that learning to swim is important. He said he hoped the demonstration by the divers would also inspire the curiosity of young people using the pools.

"We have too many black kids drowning in home pools, at the beach and in creeks because they don't know how to swim," Jones said. "It's dangerous not knowing how to swim."

Shanice Coates, 13, a student at Jefferson Junior High School, was excited about meeting the new mayor and taking a picture with him.

"I want to learn how to swim, have fun and meet new people," she said.

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