WA­TER FOL­LIES

A pro­posal to shut­ter a pair of neigh­bour­hood pools has whipped up a wave of an­gry op­po­si­tion

The Province - - FRONT PAGE - MATT ROBINSON AND NICK EAGLAND mrobin­son@post­media.com neagland@post­media.com

A pro­posal to drain and shut­ter a pair of neigh­bour­hood pools in Van­cou­ver has whipped up a wave of an­gry op­po­si­tion ahead of a loom­ing Park Board vote.

In early De­cem­ber, board com­mis­sion­ers will de­bate then vote on whether to ap­prove an aquatics strat­egy that, in its lat­est form, calls for the clo­sure of Lord Byng and Tem­ple­ton Park pools.

Park board staff are re­vis­ing their so-called VanS­plash strat­egy ahead of the vote, but de­clined an in­ter­view on the topic un­til af­ter the de­ci­sion.

For now, the strat­egy calls for Lord Byng and Tem­ple­ton to close, the Van­cou­ver Aquatic Cen­tre, Bri­tan­nia and Ker­ris­dale pools to be “re­newed,” and a new des­ti­na­tion pool to be built — per­haps in Con­naught Park — all over the next 25 years.

The pools are listed for clo­sure be­cause they “are near­ing the end of their lives and need to be ei­ther re­newed or re­placed,” ac­cord­ing to the strat­egy.

But the pro­posed clo­sures have some Van­cou­ver res­i­dents div­ing into the po­lit­i­cal de­bate, with at least two pe­ti­tions and one op­po­si­tion group call­ing it­self Byng Splash.

Paul Edgcumbe, a vol­un­teer with Byng Splash, was at Lord Byng on Tues­day telling lo­cals about the po­ten­tial clo­sure and col­lect­ing sig­na­tures for his group’s pe­ti­tion. Edgcumbe, who is “semi-re­tired,” lives nine blocks from the West Side pool and uses it weekly.

He said the pool is pop­u­lar among fam­i­lies and se­niors, who ap­pre­ci­ate its clean­li­ness, rel­a­tively calm en­vi­ron­ment and safety.

“It’s nearby and we know the staff,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about your towel and bathing suit dis­ap­pear­ing on you when you turn your back.”

He hopes the pe­ti­tion and comments from the pub­lic, as well as a new on­line cam­paign at byn­gsplash. word­press.com, will have an im­pact on the seven park board com­mis­sion­ers.

Eileen Gra­ham, 75, who lives four blocks from the pool and whose chil­dren once took swim­ming lessons there, said she’s dis­ap­pointed by its po­ten­tial clo­sure. She reg­u­larly at­tends aqua-fit class and “grow­ing strong” train­ing for se­niors.

“I come here twice a week. I walk be­cause I live in the neigh­bour­hood. Where am I go­ing to go when they close the pool?”

Car­royl Taylor, 70, is re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken hip. She said it’s im­por­tant to have a lo­cal, ac­ces­si­ble pool that is a bit qui­eter, and that caters to the el­derly and peo­ple with spe­cial needs.

Tom Perry is among those lead­ing Byng Splash — al­though he notes there hasn’t been a for­mal de­ci­sion to adopt that name just yet.

“Not ev­ery­body can fit into a gi­ant pool … and not ev­ery­body will. In par­tic­u­lar, older peo­ple who are get­ting more hear­ing prob­lems, high noise lev­els are ex­tremely un­pleas­ant. And for the same rea­son, peo­ple like me don’t go to restau­rants very of­ten. It’s too bloody noisy,” Perry said in an in­ter­view.

“Older peo­ple who aren’t per­fectly able-bod­ied are afraid of be­ing jos­tled and/or knocked over. So an ex­tremely crowded fa­cil­ity with a lot of peo­ple mov­ing very fast is dan­ger­ous and they won’t go.”

Perry, an in­ter­nal medicine spe­cial­ist, said ev­ery­day ex­er­cise is key to main­tain­ing health, and be­lieved it was rea­son­able to sub­si­dize es­tab­lished neigh­bour­hood pools that, ac­cord­ing to the park board, are the least ef­fi­cient and re­quire the most in­vest­ment to op­er­ate.

Perry would like to see the board pause on the mat­ter, or re­move word­ing from its strat­egy about the shut­ting of cer­tain pools.

“If they would just take those words out of it, we would all be in favour of their plan,” Perry said.

Van­cou­ver-Point Grey MLA David Eby is among those op­posed to the clo­sure of Lord Byng. In an open let­ter he wrote to the park board, he urged com­mis­sion­ers to “lis­ten care­fully to the con­stituents who have writ­ten to you, and to re­visit the plan.”

NICK PRO­CAYLO/PNG

Car­royl Taylor is re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken hip and said it’s im­por­tant to have a lo­cal pool that is a bit qui­eter and caters to the el­derly and folks with spe­cial needs. The park board will be vot­ing on whether to close Lord Byng and Tem­ple­ton pools, which ‘are near­ing the end of their lives and need to be ei­ther re­newed or re­placed.’

— PHO­TOS: NICK PRO­CAYLO

The city says the Lord Byng Pool should be closed be­cause it’s ‘near­ing the end’ of its life, but lo­cal se­niors who use the fa­cil­ity reg­u­larly are op­posed to the idea.

PAUL EDGCUMBE

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