WINCHESTER — The county’s Parks and Recreation Department wants to hear from the public about the future of its aquatics program.
In the coming months, the department will meet with Winchester officials, local swim teams and residents to find out what sorts of aquatics facilities they want in the county. The feedback will be used to develop an aquatics master plan, which will include costs and a construction timeline.
A recently formed committee of Parks and Recreation staff and commission members met Tuesday night at Sherando High School to begin developing the plan.
Frederick County has two existing outdoor pools — one at Sherando Park, the other Clearbrook Park. They were built in the late 1980s and are close to needing significant maintenance investments.
There’s also interest in creating an indoor aquatics facility, which has been on the county’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) since 1993. The plan calls for an $11.8 million, 35,000-square-foot facility.
“It would dramatically change aquatics in Frederick County,” parks department Assistant Director Jon Turkel said. “You’d see a lot more participation in the high schools and certainly younger ages just having the ability to swim in the winter time.”
The department proposed building an indoor aquatics facility and community center at the site of the former Frederick County Middle School site at 441 Linden Drive, but Chicago-based developer Healthcare Development Partners (HDP) recently signed a $3.9 million contract to buy the property from the county.
Other sites are now being explored, including the location of the county’s proposed fourth high school, which is slated to be built on an 83-acre site near Admiral Byrd Middle School off Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522). Turkel said the aquatics center would be constructed on a five-acre segment of that property. He said the school division previously indicated the county could have the parcel for the aquatics center.
Commission member Ron Madagan said he thinks the fourth high school site would be the “best bet” for the location.
“I think we need this,” Madagan said.
Committee member Gary Longerbeam said some county residents have raised concerns that the high school location could be controversial, since the other county high schools wouldn’t have an indoor pool.
“If I was one of these people, I’d just be glad that we had a pool,” Madagan said.
Longerbeam asked if an indoor aquatics facility would impact the county’s need for two outdoor pools. Turkel said that’s something parks officials would “look at.”
“Generally, from staff’s perspective, it makes sense to say, ‘Yeah, if we had an indoor competitive facility then we would look at our outdoor pools differently and we would say, ‘Do we need two outdoor competitive facilities?’”
Turkel said it’s possible the county could eliminate one or both outdoor pools or make substantial alterations to them.
Madagan wondered if a splash park or water slides could be built at the outdoor pools. Turkel said that’s something that could be considered.