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Wilton YMCA: Fair & equitable?

To the Editor:

Wilton, among its many assets, has one of the few Olympic sized (50 meter) pools in our state at the Wilton YMCA. It is one of the drawing cards for membership there, and the promise of its use by members a reason many of us from out of town have joined. It is also a big drawing card into your town: those of us who use it also visit your restaurants, your stores, your shops.

I have been a member at the Y for nearly ten years.  Under the Y’s current director, Bob McDowell, access to the 50M pool at full length (called Long Course, or LC) has increasingly been allocated to the local swim teams and access to general members increasingly restricted—particularly to those who work regular business hours.

Over the years, Wilton Y adult swimmers and I have met with Bob to ask for equitable access to the 50M pool at LC and he has been persistently obdurate and unfailingly uncompromising in denying our requests. Because of this pattern of intransigence, I have recently canceled my membership at Wilton.

This pattern of behavior raises two questions:  First, whether the Y is fulfilling its mission to the public and to its members (as stated in its charter) by restricting access to the most significant part of its facility.  And, second, whether the pool is being given unfair and inequitable access to the local swim teams, who pay for its use separately.

First, I have no problems with the swim team’s daily afternoon practices, which occur after school hours. Second, occasional use of the pool for entire weekend swim meets is also perfectly acceptable, even though it blocks members from using it. These meets draw swimmers from the tri-state area, and it’s a wonderful way for children to participate in a healthy, life-affirming activity—one that will last them all their lives. However, as adults, we’re simply asking for equitable and fair access.

My complaint, and that of other swimmers, is to the time allocated for member use. The current schedule gives the swim teams 46 hours per week of pool time. For working members (i.e., those that cannot swim from 5:30 am to 1:00 PM), allocation to the pool at LC is 9.5 hours per week. That’s a ratio of 5:1. Of course, when the swim teams call on weekends and ask for additional swim time, it’s granted, and members get short-changed, further devaluing our membership.

Further, swim team practices run daily from 3:00 pm to 9:45 pm. For those of us who work, a nighttime swim period of 7:30 to 10:00 pm would be ideal. For this to occur two to three times per week (on a rotating basis with the swim teams) is simply equitable and fair.

Many of us swim long distances (from 3 to 4 miles) non-stop. This takes an average swimmer roughly two hours. We take our swimming seriously and it can only be done at LC, not at the other Y’s (who have 25 yard pools) for obvious reasons.

This raises my main point: are members getting what we pay for? To promise access to an Olympic size pool and then deny it is simply this: shortchanging members. Caveat emptor.

John Niesyn

Fairfield

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