The well-cared-for landscape that once enhanced the Joppatowne Swim Club is now a picture of neglect.
The loudspeaker that used to summon the start of adult swims and hail club members to the basket room dangles from a rusting pole. The swimming pool that provided Joppatowne residents 28 summers of relaxation, exercise and a community meeting place has been taken up by several types of fowl as their makeshift sanctuary.
The sounds of lifeguards' whistles and children frolicking don't fill the air this summer at the Joppatowne Swim Club. It's closed. For good.
The 4.5-acre lot likely will be purchased by a developer, said Linda Gamber, former manager of the pool and daughter of the owner, Joseph Schlee.
She said a developer, whom she declined to identify, has an option on the land.
The county Department of Planning had received no formal planning proposal for the land as of last week.
Ms. Gamber cited rising maintenance costs and a decline in membership as the primary factors leading to its closure.
"The pool is completely shut down and will never open again as a swim club," said Ms. Gamber. "You can look at the figures on our tax returns and see that we struggled through it as long as we could.
"No businessman in his right mind would buy it as a swim club. It was a lovely facility when we bought it, but now it's 28 years old and everything is starting to break down."
Mr. Schlee, president of Sylvan Dell Inc., the company which owns the pool, declined to comment.
His daughter said a "major leak" in the facility's plumbing deterred potential buyers from purchasing the pool and reopening it as a club.
While no one knows the extent of the damage to the plumbing, Gamber estimates the cost of sealing the leak as more than $80,000.
"We could have lived with the leak," said Ms. Gamber, whose family purchased the swim club in 1968. "You just pump more water into the pool and your water bill goes up, and life is fairly easy. But if the bills are going to go up, the income has to come up in proportion."
Mary Smith, a teacher at Joppatowne Elementary School, spent 19 of her summers managing the pool before stepping down four years ago. Mrs. Smith believes it was the "waning interest of the community," coupled with a "lack of commitment from the owners" that led to the club's demise.
"I'm really sad," she said. "I have lots of memories there, and I think it's a shame because that pool was a focal point of this community for many years. I drive by there, and it's hard to look at it just sitting there unoccupied."
Ms. Gamber insists that she and her family did all they could to preserve the club. To get youngsters interested, they offered a summer day camp and a discount night for "little-leaguers," neither of which proved an overwhelming success.
"We went for the gusto last year and it didn't work," she said, sitting on deck overlooking the Milford Swim Club in Randallstown, a club she operates and her family owns. "Nobody wanted it to work more than we did.
"It's absolutely disgraceful to sit here and tell you that we failed. .. Heck, we're the swimming pool kings. We feel let down and disappointed that we couldn't make it work. That's a real slap in the face."
Michelle Coomer, a Joppatowne Swim Club member for 22 years, misses the club. Now, when she and Kevin, her husband, want to take their two daughters, 12-year-old Stephanie and 10-year-old Stacey out for a swim, they pack the car for a 15-minute drive to the Gunpowder Valley Country Club in Kingsville.
"The Gunpowder pool is much nicer, but I hated to see Joppatowne close because it was so close and so convenient," said Mrs. Coomer, 36. "I used to take my kids there, and if I forgot something at home, I'd tell them, 'I'll be back in five minutes.' Now, if we forget something, we just have to do without it."
Stephanie Coomer dropped by the pool grounds with her family last week. Staring blankly through the fence, she said, "I really miss all the friends I used to play with here."
In many ways, agree former club members, Joppatowne has lost a friend.