After six years on the drawing board, Montgomery County's Lower Bethesda Pool appears ready to be built.
"We've had all kinds of problems," said County Council President Elizabeth Scull. "We had trouble finding a site; then there was a sewer moratorium. Now we have a sewer line we can hook it up to. It looks like we will go ahead and do it. I'm very optimistic."
The pool was approved in May of 1973 for its present location, immediately north of the intersection of Little Falls Parkway and Hillandale Road. The 1973 appropriation of $545,000 has grown to a present allotment of $1.011 million.
A lower Bethesda pool was first planned in 1971 for $250,000 at a site near the intersection of Bradley Boulevard and Fernwood Road and the following year for $320,000 adjacent to the Chevy Chase Recreation Center on Norwood Road.These facilities would have included pools about half the size of the one presently planned.
A public hearing is scheduled Tuesday for a supplemental appropriation of $189,000. After the hearing, the Council will likely go into work session and vote on the matter, Scull said.
Scull said it was possible, but unlikely, that the Council would again defer the matter. Most parties agree that if construction of the pool is not approved by early spring, there is little chance the facility would be completed by its desired June 1, 1979, opening date.
The pool complex would take up 3.5 acres of parkland which has recently been used for leaf disposal. The facility would include a Z-shaped pool, which would accommodate a 50 meter-long central section, a training pool and a wading pool, and a bathe house, deck and lawn area.
The pool would operate strictly on a daily admission basis, with charges estimated at 75 cents for children and a $1.25 for adults.
Council members, saying they wanted to get a better feeling for public sentiment, postponed approving additional money to build the pool last May after listening to opposition from the Kenwood Citizens Association.
The first organized group to support the pool - the Bethesda Pool Committee - recently collected 3,050 signatures on a petition, simply stating, "Please build the Lower Bethesda Pool." Charles L. Wayne, chairman of the group, gave the petition to the Council during his presentation at the Jan. 30 Capital Improvement Program public hearings.
"Now that we've shown our interest, they (the Council) don't have any excuses (to delay) anymore," said Peter L. Meleney, a member of the committee, in a recent interview. "Postponing it is still an option at this point, but I don't think they can cancel it." Meleney, a self-employed manufacturer's representative, is chairman of the county recreation department's Area I (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) advisory board.
John A. Jamieson, president of the Kenwood Citizens Association, said his group is not opposed to a pool, but would favor a year-round indoor facility, preferably two miles north (closer to the Beltway) than the present site. "We don't oppose a pool," he said. "We just think this is the wrong place to put a pool and the wrong type of pool to be built. The things that is really needed is a down county swimming area, not an open-air pool. (There would be) better utilization from the investment if one built a year-round facility."
An indoor-outdoor swimming facility is planned by the recreation department for martin Luther King Jr. Park in White Oak at an estimated cost of $2.5 million.
Jamieson cited insufficient parking, traffic congestion and off-season vandalism as other reasons not to proceed with the present plans.
Wayne stressed that the proposed pool would be accessible to the greatest number of persons not otherwise able to use swimming pools. According to his figures, 37,000 county residents who are not served by swimming facilities live within two miles of the planned pool.
A major area of contention is parking; there are only 65 spaces for a pool that has a capacity for 950 persons. Wayne said if parking became a problem, the capacity of the pool could be reduced to 500-700, which he said would seldom be reached anyway. He said that there would be a "kiss-and-ride" area to drop off swimmers and also noted that a shuttlebus system and connection to Bethesda's minibus line would also alleviate the parking load.
There also exists a contingency plan to add another 28 parking spaces if needed.
Barbara Modine, county director of aquatics, said the problem of traffic congestion was submitted for study to the county department of transportion, which concluded there would be "no significant impact."