Several mothers, a few with babes in arms, persuaded Prince George's County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. last week to continue to operate five above-ground pools in their neighborhoods.
Surrounding him at an "open door" session, the group appealed to Kelly to reverse a decision by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which operates the pools, to cut money from next year's budget for operation and repair of the 10-year-old pools.
MNCPPC officials said they planned to close pools this summer near schools in Lakeland, Colmar Manor, East Riverdale, North Brentwood and Chillum. The residents of the five-pool area could go to the newly opened Ellen Linson Regional Pool on Calvert Road in College Park.
But after hearing the parents of children who use the small above ground pools explain the added expense, hardship and possible danger they would face in sending their children, not to a pool a few blocks away, but to the new regional pool on Calvert Road, Kelly told them he would "direct the county council to re-fund those pools."
"I don't think you'll see any of those pools closed," Kelly told the parents and children assembled around him. "While we do not have the financial capability to build pools in each of these communities, we need to phase them out slowly and replace them with something else."TKelly asked several people who crowded around him if they used the pools and found that not only small children but often their parents benefited from the three and-one-half feet deep facilities.
"I took lessons last year," said Barbara Lapp of Colmar Manor. She and her two children used the free pool "almost every day last summer. I couldn't afford to take the kids to the Linson pool," which has a 75-cent fee for children.
"Some parents have kids that go to those pools two or three times a day," said Leonard Smith of Lakeland. "If we only have the Calvert Road pool, they could take them only once."
The fight to keep the pools open is not quite over, however. Even though Kelly supports funding the pools, the county council, which must approve the MNCPPC budget, still has final authority over whether to keep the pools open.
Supporters of the neighborhood pools are not taking any chances the council will overlook them. Members of the Neighborhood Uniting Project and parents who live near the pools are scheduled to meet with the council today to "gain a final commitment from them," according to Libby Leonard of the NUP staff.