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Pickleball, swimming during thunderstorms, and more

Last year, Charlottesville Tomorrow introduced a new feature called #CvilleCurious in which we invited our readers to ask questions about the quality of life topics we cover.

You responded with more than 100 ideas!

As a result we’ve written about local entrepreneurship and the startup ecosystem, neighborhood zoning, revitalizing old shopping centers, and even the idea of consolidating local school systems.

There were also a lot of great questions about parks and recreation.  To ring in the New Year, our senior reporter Sean Tubbs has gathered some of these excellent questions together for ‘quick answers.’

We hope in 2017 you will challenge us to answer even more questions you want to see answered about this special place we call home.

Happy New Year!

Your friends at Charlottesville Tomorrow


Thunderstorms and indoor pools

The city’s Smith and Aquatic Center closed their pools in the summer of 2015 to address air and water quality. After they opened, one infrequent visitor arrived one day with her small children only to find that they were closed due to inclement weather.

“Considering the investment in renovating the Smith AFC, why are water activities cancelled at this indoor facility during thunder/lightning?” asked Heather Hill of Charlottesville [and a member of Charlottesville Tomorrow’s board of directors].

The question is safety, according to the city’s parks and recreation director.

“The National Lightning Safety Institute recommends closing during lightning for both indoor and outdoor pools, the city’s parks and recreation director.

The nonprofit organization has the motto:  “If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it, clear it.”

Just because a pool is indoors does not mean the water is safe from conducting voltage from a lightning blast.

“Swimming pools are connected to a much larger surface area via underground water pipes, gas lines, electric and telephone wiring,” reads the NLSI’s website. “Lightning strikes to the ground anywhere on this metallic network may induce shocks elsewhere.”

Hill said she is an ACAC member and that pools there are available during thunderstorms.

“We approach the policy on a case-by-case basis per club,” Christine Thalwitz, vice president of marketing and research at ACAC. “If a building is older or we acquired it versus building it ourselves, we will typically clear the indoor pools during a thunderstorm.

“In our newer facilities where we have direct knowledge of construction and can verify that elements entering our facility from the outside have been properly grounded, we allow our aquatics directors more latitude,” she added.

However, Thalwitz said policies are always subject to change and the company’s aquatics directors have the authority to close the pools at any time.

Equity in city parks and recreation programs

“What does the city do to ensure that families with all levels of income participate in programs?” asked one reader who chose to remain anonymous.

When asked for more information about her question, this mother of two small children said she has made great use of the city’s recreation department for both exercise and enrichment programs.

“I have noticed over the last couple of years, however, that the classes are mostly filled with white, middle-class families,” she said, questioning on whether the problem is one of cost and other barriers such as transportation.

“Is there anything that Parks and Rec can do to lower barriers to participation if that is indeed the problem?” she asked.

Daly said the city does indeed seek to ensure anyone who wants to participate can do so.

“The City Parks and Recreation Department has a scholarship program that provides for access to programs and facilities for those where income may be a barrier,” he said. “There are currently 607 households within the City whose members are participating in the scholarship program.”

Over $130,000 in passes and services were handed out in fiscal year 2016. Information and a scholarship application can be found on the city website following this link. 

“It can be completed and submitted online or may be submitted at the Parks and Recreation Administration office on the downtown mall or at the Smith and Carver Centers,” Daly said.

YMCA questions

Another anonymous reader had a question about the relationship between the Piedmont Family YMCA and Albemarle and Charlottesville recreation activities.

Albemarle contributed $2 million in capital construction costs for what is now known as the Brooks Family YMCA. Charlottesville contributed $ million to the facility that is now under construction in the western side of McIntire Park.

The terms of a 40-year ground lease means the YMCA will pay almost nothing in rent.

“If the YMCA has been endorsed with [public financing] and a dollar a year in rent and carries the same programs as the city’s parks and recreation department, what will be the city’s job?”

“As far as I can tell the YMCA will also run swim lessons, exercise programs, children’s programs that will duplicate what the P&R programs does now at Carver, Smith and downtown,” this person added.

Daly said he anticipates that both the YMCA and the city will offer similar programs.

“We aren’t aware of the exact level of programming conducted by the YMCA upon the facility’s opening,” Daly said. “The City has a Lease and a Use Agreement with the YMCA that prescribes facility access for Charlottesville High School’s swim and dive team as well as numerous programming opportunities across the age spectrum for fitness, wellness, enrichment, therapeutic recreation and more.”

Jessica Maslaney, executive director of the Piedmont Family YMCA, said the three-way partnership between the city, the county and her group will continue upon the facility’s opening.

“This partnership really allows us to do something much greater than any of the three of us could have done on our own,” Maslaney said.

Maslaney said an assessment conducted in 2006 demonstrated a need for additional recreational space.  That’s what led City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to invest in the nonprofit group.

“We’ve tried very closely with parks and recreation as well as other nonprofit agencies to make sure we’ve very intentional about the programs and services that we offer so we’re not duplicating,” Maslaney said. “We’ve identified an initial focus on community health to make sure that fitness and recreation are truly affordable to everybody and not just those who can afford it.”

Another program goal will be to teach every second-grade child in the community how to swim.

Maslaney said the YMCA is expected to be completed by the end of May.

A skate park for Crozet?

As Charlottesville prepared to receive bids to construct a $1.7 million skate park in McIntire Park, people in some other areas of the community want to know if other similar facilities are being planned.

Are there any plans for a skateboard park in Crozet?asks Deborah Donnelly.

The president of Claudius Crozet Park said there are no specific plans for a skate park but preliminary discussions have taken place. However, she said skateboarders will be welcome to use a three-quarter mile paved loop currently being built.

“This trail will be completed in early spring and officially opened on June 17th when we will also hold a SK8Crozet fundraising event,” said Kim Guenther.

The trail will be six-feet wide and a second phase will connect it to other neighborhood trails in Crozet.

Pickleball courts

“Can we have permanent pickle ball courts outside?” asked Diane Brownlee.

Before we answer Diane’s question, some of you may be wondering what Pickleball is!

“Pickleball is a fun, fast-paced court sport that includes elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong,” said Teddy Hamilton, president of the Central Virginia Pickleball Club.

Hamilton said the game is easy to learn and can be played indoors or outside. The court is smaller than you need for tennis which makes Pickleball easier for seniors to play.

“In addition to being quite fun, the game has developed a reputation for its friendly and social nature,” Hamilton said. “Equipment is inexpensive and the same court, paddle and ball can be used for players aged 8 to 80.”

There are plans to make outdoor courts a reality.

Hamilton said the local pickleball club has pledged $10,000 towards the courts and have hired Waterstreet Studios to develop site plans.

“The City and the County are working together to fund the construction of dedicated pickleball courts at Darden Towe Park,” Daly said. “The details are being worked out currently and hopefully those courts can be under construction sometime in 2017.”