The Life Aquatic

November 1, 2012, Department, by Danielle Taylor

Prince George's County seniors enjoy a water aerobics class.Municipality: Prince George’s County, Maryland

Population: 871,233

Year Agency Founded: 1927

Annual Operating Budget: $267.2 million ($5.68 million for aquatics)

Agency Head: Ronnie Gathers, director


Essential Information:  

27,528 acres of parkland, 11 aquatic facilities, three athletic complexes, 390 athletic fields, 43 community centers, 418 developed park properties, 90 miles of hiking/biking trails, 27 historic sites/landmarks, one minor league baseball stadium, 225 playgrounds, one sports and learning complex, 214 outdoor tennis courts, etc.

Making a Splash:  

As Washington, D.C.’s immediate neighbor to the east, Prince George’s County, Maryland, is a largely urban extension of the city, but thanks to the county’s park and recreation department, part of the larger Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, its residents have plenty of places to play. And at the county’s dozens of parks and public facilities, community members have a wide range of options in terms of recreational programming, from youth baseball leagues to adult Caribbean dance fitness classes to the ancient Chinese healing art of qigong.

But with 80 percent of its residents classified as minorities, and a nationwide trend showing that people of color are statistically less likely to have learned how to swim (and are therefore more at-risk for water-related accidents), the county has taken a special interest in teaching this important skill to the community for fun, recreation, and safety alike. Fortunately, a number of inviting facilities throughout the county make swimming an appealing activity for locals of all ages.

Of the county’s 11 aquatic centers, five offer year-round indoor swimming pools, and most also provide water-based fitness classes, including HydroSpin, Rhythms of Zumba, Pi Yo Chi, and Deep Water Intervals. Summer splash parks introduce youngsters to the water with exciting features such as aqua climbing walls, lilypad crossings, tipping-bucket waterfalls, and plenty of waterslides.

At the county’s Sports & Learning Complex, a state-of-the-art indoor leisure pool and an adjacent competition pool attract more than 50,000 swimmers and splashers each year. The leisure pool offers a gradual beach-style entry, several splash features, a water slide, and a lazy river, plus a separate hot tub that can accommodate up to 18 patrons at a time. The main pool isn’t only used for local learn-to-swim and water aerobics classes; groups ranging from local police and fire departments to military units to scuba organizations have used the facility to train, and it has also hosted a number of noteworthy swim meets.

“We often see a large number of minorities participating in our aquatics programs, and we continue to create and offer low-cost and/or free opportunities to engage these communities via National Water Safety Month, USA Swimming’s Make a Splash Initiative, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Pool Safely Campaign,” says Bill Sheehan, the department’s assistant chief of sports, health, and wellness.