PIEDMONT -- Younger swimmers can swim laps at Piedmont Community Pool now after a decision by the Piedmont Recreation Commission.
The commission on March 20 voted unanimously to let swimmers younger than 18 swim laps if they have current valid USA Swim Cards or pass a swim test showing they meet American Red Cross swim Level 6 fitness criteria.
The previous policy was that swimmers had to be 16 or older to swim during the adult lap swim period.
The commission had held lengthy discussions at their Jan. 30 meeting about "junior" lap swimming possibilities. Several young people spoke at that meeting, urging the commission to allow younger swimmers who passed the criteria. Other speakers were concerned about overcrowding at the pool.
The revised policy will be in effect through the end of the year and is considered a pilot project, Recreation Director Mark Delventhal said.
"I can't envision a universe of teens getting up at 5 a.m. to swim," commissioner Teddy King said. "This seems a good interim solution."
Delventhal and pool staff are setting guidelines at a maximum of 18 lap swimmers at a time, with three swimmers in each of six lanes.
Morning lap swimmer Ken Taylor said he sees fewer than 12 swimmers most days at the 5:30 a.m. opening hour. "I see no problem at all adding younger people to the pool," Taylor said.
Karen Hurd felt 10 lap swimmers at a time was a more appropriate number. She said she might go to a different pool facility because of crowding at the Piedmont pool.
Longtime swimmer John Sekol said he reviewed swim logs over a month's period and found that early lap swimmers numbered from two to 11 on various days, with a median of six people swimming on any given day.
"I like what I see. Let's move it forward," Commissioner Stephen Mills said.
The commission also reviewed requests by several pool users that it open at 5 a.m. instead of 5:30 a.m. The commission agreed that for now, weekday opening at 5:30 a.m. would remain. Delventhal said the pool is open more hours than most other public pools, about 5,000 hours per year.
Recreation Supervisor David Weisgerber noted that pool officials will closely monitor how the pilot program is working and make adjustments where necessary.
"We don't want to squeeze out people who have been swimming here for decades," he said.