Swimmers making waves to stop pool closures
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 effect 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 is 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 and said it is 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 that there has not 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 are not 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 believes it is reasonable to subsidize established neighbourhood pools, which, 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.”
Carroyl Taylor, who is recovering from a broken hip and uses the Lord Byng Pool, says it’s important to have a local, accessible facility that caters to the elderly and those with special needs.