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Water world: Pools awash in excitement, controversy

by Courteney Stuart
published 12:31pm Tuesday May 19, 2009
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news-meadepool1The new pool at Meade Park will likely open in mid-June.

City families looking forward to splashing and swimming this summer are seeing hopeful signs at Meade Park. The colorful slides and play equipment are installed, the “lazy river” is in, and the pool house is built.

But while the swimming season officially starts Memorial Day weekend, Brian Daly, acting parks director for the City, says the new $3.8 million Meade swimming complex– officially known as Onesty Family Aquatic Center– won’t be open until mid-June, nine months after construction began.

“There are a few critical portions of construction going on right now,” says Daly. “They have to finish the pool shell and the pool deck, and the parking lot is not complete.”

The new pool is especially anticipated by families living in the adjacent Woolen Mills neighborhood.

“I think it’s going to be great,” says Kevin Cox, who lives with his family a few blocks away on Fairway Avenue. One concern, however, says Cox, is that the new pool won’t have sufficient parking in its 36-space lot to accommodate cars carrying the 225 swimmers the pool can handle.

“There’s going to be significant overflow into the neighborhood,” worries Cox, who has asked the city to implement parking restrictions on nearby streets. According to Donovan Branche, assistant traffic engineer for the city, those concerns have been heard. Additional traffic spots will be painted onto the street around the park, she says, and restrictions (such as permit parking for residents) are being considered.

The city is also encouraging swimmers to use alternate transportation. City bus 1A will add a stop at Meade, according to Daly, and a 10-foot-wide pedestrian and bike path is being planned for the stretch of Carlton Avenue from the railroad tracks to Market.

Season passes good for Meade and Washington Park pools are available to all students in Charlottesville City schools and homeschoolers for $20; private school students, however, must pay the adult rate of $39 pre-season and $49 once the pools open– something that has angered radio show host and former city councilor Rob Schilling, who writes a scathing indictment of the pricing structure on his blog.

“The City of Charlottesville hates the fact that so many potential indoctrination hostages (aka eligible government-school students) opt-out of our deficient division in favor of a quality, private education. And now,” Schilling writes, “the City has found a way to punish for their civic disobedience, those tax-paying citizens who choose to have their children privately educated, all in the name of City-compelled “fairness.”

Some parents agree– even if they don’t word their criticism so harshly.

“It seems unfair,” says Dragana Katalina-Sun, whose three children attend private school. The family– who arrived in Charlottesville as refugees through the International Rescue Committee– lives in downtown Charlottesville and operate Downtown Mall eateries Marco & Luca dumpling shop and Nicola’s Veggies.

Daly, however, defends the pricing structure.

“We’re not sure whether all those students who are in private school are residents,” he explains. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible.” Private school students, he notes, still get a discount over non-residents, who will have to shell out $79 per person pre-season for a pass, and $99 once the pools open.

The parks department seems to be in overdrive these days, as Meade is not the only city park getting an overhaul. The city announced on May 21 that a $1.5 million renovation of Forest Hills Park, located off Cherry Avenue, will begin by mid- to late-June and is expected to last through the summer. In addition to new restrooms, picnic shelters, two playgrounds,  and a basketball court, the new Forest Hills park will feature walking trails and a 6,500-square-foot “spray ground.”

The mother of all City parks– McIntire– has been the subject of endless debate over the past two years as the city and the YMCA attempt to negotiate with softball players, wading pool babies, ferris wheel riders, and foes of the Meadowcreek Parkway.

In other city pool news, Daly says construction on the much-debated Smith Pool at Buford Middle School will be underway in the next 30 days and is expected to completed by fall 2010.


  • Mequa Shore May 19th, 2009 | 1:49 pm

    “Season passes good for Meade and Washington Park pools are available to all students in Charlottesville City schools and homeschoolers for $20; private school students, however, must pay the adult rate of $39 pre-season and $49 once the pools open.”


  • Bill Covert May 19th, 2009 | 8:58 pm

    The link in the story above to charlottesville.org about the season passes says nothing about private school v. public school. It simply states that the $20 passes are “valid for any student (not colleges) that has residency within the city”. According to that wording, Dragana Katalina-Sun’s kids should be able to go at the cheap rate, as well as my one child who goes to private school and my one child who goes to a Charlottesville City school.

  • stew May 20th, 2009 | 7:54 am

    Daly’s line that its too hard to determine if private school students are city residents is such a load of cr*p that its hard to believe they aren’t being spiteful. Shilling is right on this one.

  • Sick Of The Local Rambos May 20th, 2009 | 1:21 pm

    Looks like the proposed fee structure is going by the wayside, thanks to Rob Shilling & Associates. What do we pay these city officials for? Seems like every decision they make lately is overturned when the public weighs in and speaks up with a little bit of the common sense approach. The nerve of these idiots to say they will charge “rich folks” more to swim in their precious pools in the first place!

    The city needs to hire some 13 and 14 year old kids. They can probably make much better decisions. :)

  • Neighbor May 20th, 2009 | 1:59 pm

    Judging by what we’ve seen going up, we now know why Parks & Rec never showed anyone any scale drawings of the thing, despite requests. This is EXACTLY what the neighbors said they didn’t want. Parks & Rec claimed it would be low-impact, use only natural colors, and nothing too tall. But what’s that hideous bucket?

    The potential parking problems have been a huge issue for nearby residents all along, despite some residents who live much further away in the neighborhood acting like they just thought of it.

    This isn’t Brian Daly’s fault. Blame needs to be laid at the feet of Mike Svetz, who is conveniently absent now.

  • Sick Of The Local Rambos May 20th, 2009 | 3:51 pm

    The bucket thing is actually a neat thing. The bucket fills up with water, then the bucket overflows on top of the kids going under it.

    The place is gonna stay way too overcrowded though. I feel for the neighborhood as far as parking. And kids darting out into the street to get from one side to the other. It’s gonna be a zoo! A very dangerous zoo!

    Thanks to a Meade Avenue resident (family member) not owning a car, I and my family have reserved off street parking just a block away. That’s gonna be nice. :)

  • Neighbor May 20th, 2009 | 4:43 pm

    Sick of the Local Rambos, re the bucket, your enthusiasm for it tells me that you won’t have to look directly at it 12 months a year. Hooray for you.

  • Think of the positives.... May 20th, 2009 | 4:57 pm

    neighbor. Think about some of the “eye candy” you get to look it in the warmer weather! Seriously though, its a freakin’ bucket. I can’t think of much worse eyesores that folks have to deal with (downtown mall baby bonnet)

  • Think of the positives.... May 20th, 2009 | 4:59 pm

    typo. I meant that I can think of much worse eyesores….

    And I just remembered - eye candy? It’s near Belmont - fat chance! (no pun intended!)

  • Sick Of The Local Rambos May 20th, 2009 | 5:09 pm

    Neighbor, I am up and down Meade Avenue all day long. So I will be seeinng it very often. I would rather see the bucket than some of the goofy ‘Art In Place” set up all over town.

  • Sue May 20th, 2009 | 6:54 pm

    Drove by this today and there’s so much stuff in this pool I really don’t think there’s room for people– public or private

  • Jim May 20th, 2009 | 8:38 pm

    Looks like it’s going to be a huge improvement over the previous pool. I don’t quite understand those complaining about it.

  • TedTurner May 20th, 2009 | 9:45 pm

    I took a look at the pricing and it looks like a bargain. I came from Warrenton where the prices were higher and the pools kind of crappy. Private school students may have to pay $4 more for the season, so what. Isn’t there something more important to solve than ranting about prices for Private schooled kids who aren’t likely using the pools anyway?

  • webster 52 May 20th, 2009 | 9:47 pm

    Shilling is way off as usual. I have never once seen the city treat private schools poorly. When the catholic school was downtown, they used McGuffey Hill park for recess (as does the Village School) and the Downtown Library. Covenant uses the Athletic Fields at Lane, McIntire and CHS. Never once has my family been discriminated because our kids attended private school at any of the City pools or other activities. From what I read, my kids will not be discriminated with the pools this season. At $20 or $36, the pass is quite a bargain.

    Shilling used this slight to attack the city schools and parks and rec and overlooked all the great things happening by these divisions.

  • Sean McCord May 20th, 2009 | 11:17 pm

    As a member of the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, I was stunned to read this account. I can assure you all that we never proposed excluding private school students from the discounted season pass rate. Reports to the contrary are erroneous. I write more about the issue on my own blog, here: http://citizenmccord.com/2009/on-pool-passes/

  • Jeff May 20th, 2009 | 11:33 pm

    Maybe you didn’t but once again sounds like staff was on another planet.

    this from Chn29:

    City Nixes Public Pool Pricing Plans

    Charlottesville has officially abandoned plans to charge private school kids, who live in the city, more to use public pools this summer.

    The word comes from inside the parks and recreation department.

    The reversal comes less than a day after NBC29 brought concerns to City Hall about the apparent inequity for taxpayers. Click here to read the original story.

    Reported by Henry Graff

  • [...] June 6, two weeks after the area’s other aquatic centers opened (with the exception of the Onesty Family Aquatic Center at Meade Park, which is under construction and expected to open mid-month). The wading pool was about to be [...]

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