With gas prices and temperatures rising, Darrell Winslow hopes the upcoming summer heat will drive area swimmers to Algonkian Regional Park's new pool near the Potomac River.

This Saturday, the Northern Virginia Regional Park authority will open its $530,000 swimming pool complex, miniature golf course and boating ramp to the public at a mid-morning ceremony at the 500-acre park.

"This should give people a reason to stay close by and go to an exciting park," said Winslow, the park authority's executive director.

The riverside property, on Rte. 7 near the Fairfax-Londoun county line, was purchased from Pepco in 1976. It currently features a Frisbee golf course, an 18-hole golf course, pro shop, playground and picnic shelters.

Last week, officials were still preparing the park for its grand opening. The 22-sided, 434,000 gallon pool was opening. The 22-sided, 434,000 gallon pool was waiting for someone to plunge in. But light construction and landscape work near the clubhouse and 200-space parking lot was still under way. "We will have everything ready on opening day," Winslow predicted.

The two-story, wood-paneled clubhouse depends heavily on natural lighting as a conservation measure. In addition to turnstiles, office operated lockers and shower facilities for guests.

Only the women's section of the clubhouse has individual dressing stalls and vanities. "I guess we do discriminate against the men," noted Winslow as he walked through the more spartan men's quarters.

In addition to a large grassy area for sunbathers and a snack bar, the pool area has four sliding boards that dump riders into the water, three diving boards and five lifeguard stands. Although the depth of the pool ranges from two to 13 feet, most of the bathing area is shallow, averaging less than four feet.

A ramp with handrails allows handicapped swimmers to enter the shallow end of the pool gradually.

Gerry W. Bertier, an alexandria resident who is paralyzed from the waist down and works as a medical equipment specialist for the handicapped, said Algonkian is one of three or four pools in Northern Virginia accessible to the handicapped.

"The only problem," said Bertier, "is the water damages conventional (wheel) chairs and some people tend to drag their feet across the bottom of the pool in shallow water."

Park officials say more than 1 million people a year use the recreation and tourist areas at the 11 parks operatedby the regional park authority.

The 8,000 acres of parkland, they say represents a public investment of $36 million. The parks program is financed by Arlington, Fairfax and Loudon counties in addition to the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church. State and federal funds supplement local tax and bond revenue contributions.

The may 24 grand opening ceremonies at Algonkian, featuring politicians, balloons, the Board Run High School Band, diving clowns and synchronized swimmers, starts at 10:30 a.m.

The Algonkian pool opening coincides with the season opening of the park system's three other pools: Upton Hill Regional Park at Patrick Henry Drive in Arlington, 534-3437; Bull Run Regional Park on Rte. 29-211 in Centreville, 631-0550; Pohick Bay Regional Park off of the I-95 Lorton exit, 339-6100 or 339-6104.

Residents of the six participating jurisdictions in the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority are admitted to the parks free of charge. A $3 a car fee is charged nonresidents.

Children under 2 may swim free at all four pools.Guests between the ages of 2 and 12, or 60 and older, will be charged $1.25 per day, or $45 for a season pass. For those between 12 and 59 years of age, the fee is $1.50 a day and $60 a season.

Reduced rates are in effect after 5:30 p.m. on weekdays.