There is a movement afoot to save our local pool. The one I never paid attention to until a few months ago and the one I now spend several hours a week immersed in.
Our pool is a municipally owned pool that is attached to a high school. The high school is on the potential chopping block and discussions are underway at the moment to determine which local high school(s) will be closed.
As for the pool, the Kiwanis Club of St. Catharines is building a brand new, shiny Aquatics Centre complete with an 8 lane 25m accessible pool, a leisure pool with for children and seniors and a new branch to our public library. The facility is slated to open later this year and our rapidly deteriorating current pool is to be closed.
That’s the plan anyway.
There are several problems with this plan.
The new pool is at the other end of town. The current pool is in an area of town where there are a lot of people who cannot afford the car or the bus pass they will need to get to the new facility.
St. Catharines is a fairly large community and, based on its size, could accommodate several public pools. According to the numbers, we could accommodate four municipal pools. We currently have one. If our pool closes when the new one opens, we’ll still only have one. Yes there is a YMCA but the fees there are much higher and it is on the same side of town as the new pool.
So there is a movement afoot to save our pool.
Now, I’ll be perfectly honest with you. Our pool is old (almost 50 years old to be exact). It was originally built as an outdoor pool but was enclosed back in 1973. The humidity is killing it. Maintenance and repair has not been kept up so it’s deteriorating quickly. The pool is still functional and has a certain charm but, according to a report that was published yesterday, it will need at least $2 million dollars (possibly up to $4 million) in repairs to bring it up to snuff. It will then require $500,000 a year just to maintain it.
There is a small but active group of folks trying hard to save the pool. I see Ken (the force behind the movement) every morning at the pool and have been getting regular updates on the progress. They have collected 3050 signatures. They organized a meeting (that was held last night) and have had a lot of publicity in the local papers. Doug and I went to the meeting last night. The gymnasium was packed. The mayor was there. The two councillors were there as well as several others who are not even from this part of town.
I wasn't sure what to expect but I was dreading an hour of mudslinging and heckling. Instead, Ken pulled off a very well-organized presentation and most of the speakers presented very valid points. The same ones I would have said if I had had the nerve to stand up at the mike. Points about health, transportation, accessibility, and community need.
I’m not really sure how I feel about the whole thing. Yes, I love the fact that I can drive to the pool in under five minutes. That makes a big difference at 5:45am when I need to be at work at 8am. I love the fact that our pool is relatively quiet in the mornings and I don’t have to fight for space in a lane. I love the fact that I paid $40 for a three month unlimited pass.
On the other hand, I don’t love the fact that I have to wait five minutes for the shower to start spewing hot water. I don’t love the fact that lots of things don’t quite work right and yet aren’t fixed. I don’t love the fact that the pool deck sometimes smells of weird chemicals because they’ve had to glue a few tiles back on. I don’t love the fact that the pool does not meet accessibility standards.
I'm not emotionally attached to the pool the way many people are. I would just like to have a municipal pool in my end of town. I'll be happy if they keep our current pool and fix it up. I'll be happy if they go crazy and decide that a brand new facility is what's needed.
I’m not sure what is going to happen but I'm sure we'll have a better sense after the next council meeting. I may find myself driving across town at 5:30am and having to change my work schedule to 8:30am to accommodate the extra driving time. I may find myself paying a lot more money to swim in a much busier pool. Even if they decide to save the pool, I'm realistic enough to know that it will probably shut down for an extended period of time while the repairs take place. So we'll still be driving to the new Aquatic Park.
That being said, the discussion was good and it was nice to be part of something that seems to be gathering momentum by the day. I’m joining the movement and we’ll see how far we can go.