The summer smell of suntan oil, chlorine and hot concrete will linger in the memory of many kids who grew up near a neighborhood swimming pool. For them, the end of school meant the beginning of swimming, and getting to the pool was as easy as jumping on a bike.
But for some children who live inside the Beltway, this summer may be spent persuading any adult in sight to drive over to the new "neighborhood" pool - not a bike ride away, but sometimes as far as four-mile car ride - into College Park.
Prince George's County is proposing that the small above-ground pools near elementary schools in Colmar Manor, Lakeland, East Riverdale, North Brentwood and Chillum be closed this summer.
At a time when the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission says it is facing tight budget constraints these five pools "are too old and too expensive to repair," said an MNCPPC official who directs the acquatics division. The above-ground pools, he said, which would cost $70,000 to open this summer, "are too small and were only meant to be temporary when we built them."
The citizens who live in the areas affected by the closings say the pools are needed "to relieve tension" and "help the kids learn to swim." They say the new regional pool, the Ellen Linson pool on Calvert Road, built last year for $400,000 by the Park and Planning Commission, is "really no alternative to a community pool."
Margaret Callison, resident of Templeton Knolls in East Riverdale and the mother of five children, is the spokesman for a group of parents in the five-pool area. Callison said her group understands the pools are old, "byt they should leave our pools up until they get ready to build one close by."
Callison said a new above-ground with a bath house and restroom facilities would only cost the Park and Planning Commission $11,000. "Surely they can find that money somewhere. If there was a need for these pools when they originally put them up, there must be some need now."
The same pools that residents now want to save faced opposition when they originally were proposed. In the late 1960s, a group of citizens in the Green Meadow community near Chillum opposed the construction of a pool in their neighborhood because of fear of "outsiders" in the then all-white community.
But racial issues of the 1960s have faded into cries of "community welfare" in the 1970s. "If my kids go to Ellen Linson they have to cross Kenilworth Avenue, cross East-West Highway and go down Calvert Road," said Callison. "I can't let the younger ones do that."
"This is just part of a long-range plan to phase out all these kinds of pools," said Rich Stevenson of the park division. "When we opened the Bourne pool in Seat Pleasant in 1974 we had to close five of these kinds of pools. They're old and they're getting more expensive to repair each year."
Barry Mangum, deputy director of the parks division, said the cost of maintaining the pools was "too great. We have to worry about cutting costs in the budget this year. The Ellen Linson pool is just a better pool to serve the real acquatic needs of these people."
Mangum added that the parks division plans to organize field trips to the Linson pool "several times a year."
But Callison said the children in her neighborhood would not be able to use the Linson pool as often as the one in her community. "In many of these homes there is no second car, and the mothers can't drive their kids to Calvert Road. The new pools costs 75 cents per child. Now we can wald and there'e no admission."
The Callison group and the Neighborhood Uniting Project, which represent four of the five pool areas, plan to go before the Planning Commission today to protest the closings.
The final decision will be made by the County Council, which is reviewing the Planning Commission budget - a budget that does not include money for the five pools.
"Over 5,532 children use those pools," said Callison. "That's a lot more than Ellem Linson could handle. I would love to get all 5,000 kids up there at once and see what the planning commission would do then."