By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

A steering committee composed of city planners, officials and citizens recently selected a conceptual plan for the renovation of Hammond Park. While the plan isn’t final, it does lay a foundation and allow the process to move forward in developing a design for an aquatic facility at the park, said Micah Lipscomb, a landscape architect with the Atlanta branch of San Francisco-based EDAW.

Changes to the conceptual plan will likely include a divider between the tennis and basketball courts and some additional parking off Glenridge Drive.

The plan “has the best spatial organization and also the best pedestrian experience for park users. It has the lowest anticipated construction cost, and that was due primarily to the lower grading costs,” Lipscomb said. “We tried to preserve the large landmark trees in the northwest corner of the property. This maximizes the recreation opportunities on the site, and it meets the recreational needs of the community.”

First concepts for the aquatic facility were presented to the public Nov. 12 by Beaver Dam, Wis.-based Water Technologies Inc., but those involved in the process said what they saw was more akin to a water park than the competitive swimming facility they had in mind.

George Ways, who is on the steering committee, said the initial presentation contained “a lot of entertainment stuff” like slides and a lazy river and wasn’t something “active kids — or adults, for that matter — would get exercise out of.”

Instead, he envisions a 50-meter long-course lap pool for competitive training and a 25-meter short-course lap pool for general use.

The 50-meter pool would offer “enormous flexibility to accommodate six high schools,” Ways said. It would be kept between 79 and 81 degrees, the optimal range for training.

“It gives them a chance to swim long distances without overheating. … A lot of high schools today are scrambling for places to train their kids,” he said.

The 25-meter pool would be kept at 86 degrees. “You can use that pool for younger children,” Ways said. “At the other end of the spectrum, its for the older adults. It was pointed out there is the Benson Center, and it’s not very far away, and it does run a pool at a much higher temperature.”

Local clubs affiliated with USA Swimming might train at the facility along with high schools, turning the pools into a year-round operation, Ways said. That wouldn’t work with a water park.

The space allocated for the aquatic facility likely won’t change in the conceptual plan, Lipscomb said.

Ways said, “What you’re down to is two fundamental things: space and dollars. What the consultants told everybody is that the box we’ve sort of drawn on the plan is about 35,000 to 40,000 square feet.”

Building a water park would make the 50-meter pool impossible, leaving only the 25-meter pool, he said. “You could probably accommodate the high schools, but you couldn’t run an around-the-year club in there. Hammond was meant to be an active park, it wasn’t meant to be a passive park.”

Dist. 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins said she is “not so much interested in the water park aspect of it. I’m much more interested in allowing kids to learn how to swim and having a pool for our seniors to go to for water aerobics and that type of rehabilitative class.”

Because the location is close to the hospitals in the Pill Hill area at Peachtree-Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry roads, the 25-meter pool also could be used for rehabilitation and therapy, she said.

As for the 50-meter pool, “we know that we have swimming needs for competitive swimming at the high school level. We need to make sure we get all the schools involved,” Jenkins said.

Ronnie Young, the city’s recreation and parks director, said: “I think there’s a definite need to satisfy the competitive swimming families in Sandy Springs. I think there is also a need for being able to accommodate the young children in a water play area. So it is my belief and hope that within our design we’ll be able to encompass all of that in this one aquatic facility.”

The steering committee will likely make a decision about the aquatic facility Dec. 15. Three conceptual plans will be posted on www.sandyspringsga.org beforehand.

Two more master plan input sessions will be held Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room at the Hammond Park gym.