IMAGE: Jennifer Bemen of the Committee for a Takoma Park Scatter Garden makes her pitch. Photo by Bill Brown.
GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
The Takoma Park city council’s Halloween report is in. Councilmember Fred Schultz counted 101 trick-or-treaters at his door within the prime-time hour and a half. It was a much higher count than usual, he said.
Councilmember Tim Male responded with another statistic. His son collected 215 pieces of candy. He had “a lot of energy,” he deadpanned.
Mayor Kate Stewart reported seeing a comfortingly large number of Hillary Clintons, “some with secret service agents.”
The Halloween report continued with a proposal to dump dead bodies in a city park. Cremated, of course.
Many Takoma Parkians wouldn’t live anywhere else, so “why should they be dead anywhere else?” asked “scatter garden” advocate Jennifer Bemen.
The tiny corner of the Twitterverse that follows the Takoma Park City Council exploded as the Committee for a Takoma Park Scatter Garden laid out its proposal. The irreverent Tweeters were Sentinel reporter Kathleen Stubbs, Takoma Park resident Arthur David Olson and Your Gilbert.
Are we not fish?
But that’s not the big news. The big news is that the city seems to be pulling the plug on the formerly-beloved Piney Branch Elementary School Pool and has requested the county to build an aquatic center on the nearby Washington Adventist Hospital campus to take its place.
Mayor Kate Stewart, WAH President Erik Wangsness, Washington Adventist University Dr. Weymouth Spence and Montgomery College TPSS Campus vice-president and provost Dr. Brad Stewart all signed the letter to Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. The letter is dated Oct. 25, 2016, and is posted to the city website here.
In the past the city government joined the fight with residents to keep county funding for the Piney Branch Pool. It’s been an almost-yearly struggle. One year they had to charge the county trenches twice.
A 2015 rally to save the poll included mayor, then city councilmember, Kate Stewart and city councilmember Terry Seamens. Photo by Bill Brown.
But, now, with almost no public notice, the city council starting talking up the idea of giving up the Piney Branch Pool and pushing for an aquatic center at WAH. WAH will be moving, but not for years, so presumably this is a long-range plan.
“I would like to clarify that the city and city council is in no way ‘giving up’ on the PBES pool,” writes Mayor Kate Stewart. Read her complete response in the comment section below.
It was no coincidence that when this first came up in a public meeting it sounded like the continuation of a previous discussion. Apparently, the council has been bouncing the idea around in emails and private conversation (but not in groups of three or more, which would violate the state’s open-meeting laws).
As abrupt as it may seem, the Long Shadows of the Future were cast months ago when the school system started eyeing the pool space for much-needed classroom expansion. At the time the council laced up its combat boots, ready for Pool Wars yet again. Since then, they’ve traded in their boots for flippers so they can swim with the flow. Are we not fish?
We are fish who can count, says the letter.
“The school-aged population has grown markedly in and near Takoma Park.” they concede. “ MCPS is beginning its facility study to find space for additional classrooms at PBES. We understand that providing both more classrooms and keeping and improving the indoor pool on the constrained school property will be a tall challenge.”
Washington Adventist Hospital, 2011. Photo by Bill Brown.
The letter-writers raise their gaze to the wider Holistic Pool View. Other pools are closing or have closed: The Montgomery College Takoma Park campus proposes to close its swimming pool (which explains the provost’s signature) “as it addresses faculty needs.” Wait. What? Does that mean they are closing it only to faculty? Strange, tricksy writing.
Washington Adventist University closed its pool as well (which explains the WAU president’s signature).
So, in other words. They are giving up on saving Piney Branch Pool, forming an alliance to bring pressure on the county executive to build one o’ them-there fancy multi-pool aquatic centers like the ones they lavish on their up-county little selves. For Takoma Park’s low income children, for the community college (faculty?) and the Adventist private college.
They may be swimming with the flow, but it’s shallow water.
What effect will this have on the Piney Branch Pool while the hospital prepares to leave, and an aquatic center is built? That will take years.
As will tearing down the Piney Branch Pool and turning the space into classrooms. Is the county school system willing to wait?
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