Prince George's County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr., running hard for re-election, scored some points among aquatic voters last weekend in East Riverdale.
Residents were celebrating the opening of the neighborhood's above-ground pool at Templeton Elementary School, 6001 Carters Lane, and Kelly attended.
With Kelly's help, residents were able to keep open five neighborhood pools that were slated for closing by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), which operates the 10-year-old swimming facilities.
M-NCPPC officials said they planned to close pools this summer near schools in Colmar Manor, Lakeland, East Riverdale, North Brentwood and Chillum because they "are too old and too expensive to repair." The residents of the five-pool area were told they could go to the Ellen Linson Regional Pool on Calvert Road, College Park, which was built last year for $400,000 by the commission. The regional pool has 75-cent admission charge for children.
Two months ago, a group of irate parents, some with babes in arms, stormed into one of Kelly's "open door" sessions to protest the expense, hardship and possible danger of sending their children to a regional facility up to four miles away, rather than to a neighborhood pool only a few blocks from home. After hearing their pleas, Kelly decided to back the parents.
At last week's pool opening celebration, replete with carnival, victory cake and ribbon cutting, Kelly told the 150 spectators, "It just goes to show what we can do when we all work together."
He gave no assurances for the future, however. Having committed himself in his re-election campaign to cutting taxes and freezing county expenditures, Kelly said, "If you want to continue with these recreational activities, you'll have to go to the County Council and present a good case. That means you have to organize."
The group is already well organized, according to spokesman Margaret Callison of 6214 Carters Lane. "Our fight hasn't ended. It's just begun," she said. "We're going to stay united to keep these pools open in the future."
This year's fight was no easy task, Callison said. More than 100 area residents formed a group called Parents United for Pools (PUP). The group enlisted the aid of the Neighborhoods Uniting Project (NUP), an organization that has lobbied with local politicians for the past five years. Together, the two groups conducted an extensive "save the pools" campaign that included demonstrations, letter writing, and public appeals to county officials.