CA is hoping pools open with a splash

Staff scrambles to make sure all facilities will be ready tomorrow

May 26, 2006|By TYRONE RICHARDSON | TYRONE RICHARDSON,SUN REPORTER

The Columbia Association's outdoor swimming pools have never missed an opening day - and the mechanics in charge of the 23 facilities scrambled this week to make sure that tomorrow's scheduled opening is no exception.

It seemed touch-and-go at one point, at least for the Dorsey Hall neighborhood pool on Columbia Road, near Ellicott City and Dorsey's Search village.

On Tuesday evening, a staff member reported a broken pump valve assembly on the filtration system. Mechanics Lou Doquang and Charlie Omlor - with 30 years of Columbia Association pool experience between them - sprang into action.

They went to a Baltimore supply store. No luck - the parts wouldn't be in until Monday. So Omlor and Doquang got back into their truck and headed to a shop in Springfield, Va. By Wednesday night, the filtration system was up and running.

"That's exactly why we had to go to Virginia," Doquang said. "We don't want to have one of the pools shut down because then we would really be in the hot seat."

For many families in the planned community, the opening of the pools marks the unofficial start of the summer season, a time to bring out the swimsuits and sunblock.

With more memberships than last year, the association is expecting to break the record of 600,000 visits at its outdoor pools between May and September.

"If anything, if the weather is good, we expect a record-breaking attendance at our outdoor pools," said Rob Goldman, the association's vice president for sport and fitness. "With the more members that we have this year and weather permitting, we expect our busiest year."

To satisfy that demand, the association employs more than 300 lifeguards and pool staff. Each of the main swimming pools holds about 170,000 gallons of water, and each of the outdoor wading pools about 8,000 gallons. On average, the association uses 33,000 gallons of chlorine each year.

Getting the pools ready for opening day starts in the usually frigid month of February. As they worked on pools, staff members said they would get the usual question from passers-by: "When is the pool opening?"

Doquang said many days and early evenings are consumed with cleaning and draining the pools and making repairs. He added that sometimes he gets home in time to get a few hours of rest before heading out again.

About 100 man-hours are spent per outdoor pool, said John Herdson, the association's aquatic director, resulting in overtime for staff members who work six or seven days a week.

"Our wives feel that we have deserted them this time of the year," Herdson said. The staff doesn't do everything; some tasks are given to private contractors.

Still, there have been times when opening day was threatened.

In April 2000, a fire at the Hopewell neighborhood pool, in east Columbia, threatened the scheduled opening.

The Sun reported that a one-alarm fire caused more than $100,000 in damage, destroying the wooden lifeguard office and the pumping and filtering equipment that keep the water clean.

Barbara L. Russell, board member for Oakland Mills village, said she received countless inquiries from concerned residents.

"There was a question as to whether the Hopewell pool would open in time and I got a lot of phone calls about that," Russell said. "At the beginning of the summer, people are anxious to get to the pools."

This week, crews were busy at the Jeffers Hill neighborhood pool. A shipment of supplies for laying tiles and stones was late.

"It was delayed, and now we are scrambling to get this one done," Herdson said this week.

By week's end, it looked as if everything was in place for a flawless opening. Herdson even checked with weather forecasters. As of yesterday, meteorologists predicted the holiday weekend would feature partly cloudy skies with temperatures near 80.

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

CA's 23 outdoor pools

For hours of operation, call the individual pools, contact Columbia Association's Aquatic Office at 410-312-6332, or e-mail aquatics@columbiaassociation.com

Bryant Woods

10451 Green Mountain Circle, Village of Wilde Lake, 410-730-5326

Clary's Forest, 11615 Little Patuxent Parkway, Village of Hickory Ridge, 410-964-0805

Clemens Crossing, 6400 Martin Road, Village of Hickory Ridge, 410-997-4214

Dasher Green, 6805 Cradlerock Way, Village of Owen Brown, 410-381-1461

Dickinson

7425 Weatherhorn Way, Village of Kings Contrivance, 410-381-3080

Dorsey Hall, 4649 Columbia Road, Ellicott City, 410-461-1481

Faulkner Ridge

15018 Marble Fawn Court, Village of Wilde Lake, 410-730-5292

Hawthorn

6175 Sunny Spring, Village of Hickory Ridge, 410-730-0943

Hobbit's Glen

11130 Willowbottom Drive, Village of Harper's Choice, 410-730-6770

Hopewell

9200 Rustling Leaf, Village of Owen Brown, 410-381-1460

Huntington

7625 Murray Hill Road, Village of Kings Contrivance, 301-490-3310

Jeffers Hill 6030 Tamar Drive, Village of Long Reach, 410-730-1220

Kendall Ridge

8245 Tamar Drive, Village of Long Reach, 410-715-3074

Locust Park

8995 Lambskin Lane, Village of Long Reach, 410-730-5621

Longfellow

5257 Eliot's Oak Road, Village of Harper's Choice, 410-730-4978

MacGill's Common

11302 Shaker Drive, Village of Kings Contrivance, 410-730-5995

Phelps Luck

5355 Phelps Luck Drive, Village of Long Reach, 410-730-5765

River Hill

6330 Trotter Road, Village of River Hill, 410-531-0191

Running Brook

5220 Columbia Road, Village of Wilde Lake, 410-730-5293

Stevens Forest

6061 Stevens Forest Road, Village of Oakland Mills, 410-730-5452

Swansfield

5659 Cedar Lane, Village of Harper's Choice, 410-730-3180

Talbott Springs

9660 Basket Ring, Village of Oakland Mills, 410-730-5421

Thunder Hill

5134 Thunder Hill Road, Village of Oakland Mills, 410-730-5563

[ Source: Columbia Association]

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