Park versus swimming pool: the Vancouver district still immersed in the debate on the outdoor swimming pool

Plans for an outdoor swimming pool in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant Park continue to be embroiled in controversy, 13 years after it was pulled.

Those with fond memories of the pool say they want it back, citing the need for swimming lessons and the lack of similar facilities in Vancouver.

In 2009, after operating for over 40 years, the pool was closed and filled in to make way for an expanded playground, basketball court, skate park, community garden and parking lot.

In late June, the Vancouver Park Board voted to reallocate $11.5 million from the $539 million budget of the 2023-2026 Capital Plan — the city’s plan for infrastructure and equipment investments — to the planning and construction of a new outdoor swimming pool in Mount Pleasant Park and asked the City Council to agree to fund the remaining costs.

The next day, the council voted against any spending on the project.

“I was quite surprised,” said park board commissioner John Coupar. “I don’t know the reason for it because some council members had supported it before.”

The board has passed several resolutions over the past decade to build a new pool, but the project never got off the ground, Margery Duda, chair of the Mount Pleasant Community Center pool committee, told CBC. On the coast.

The proposal for the new outdoor pool at Mount Pleasant Park. (Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board/Submitted)

There are five outdoor pools in Vancouver: Kitsilano Pool, Second Beach Pool in Stanley Park, New Brighton Pool in Hastings-Sunrise, Maple Grove Pool in Kerrisdale, and Hillcrest Aquatic Center Pool near Queen Elizabeth Park. .

Duda said more outdoor pools are needed.

“Surrey, British Columbia has eight [outdoor] swimming pools,” she said.

“Having an outdoor pool in a very popular community park, in a densely populated neighborhood and close to all kinds of public transportation, is a great idea,” she said.

The closure of the Kitsilano Pool in January 2022, when a windstorm caused extensive damage to the facility, added pressure for the pool’s outdoor space. To compensate for the closure, the park board extended hours of operation and added lifeguards at the Second Beach and New Brighton pools.

The cost could reach $20 million

Rebuilding the Mount Pleasant Pool would cost $12-15 million, according to Coupar, although the total cost could be as high as $20 million.

“I heard from the community all over the city that they really miss the outdoor pools,” Coupar told CBC News.

“He was promised to come back and he just never came back. Other budget priorities got in the way.”

Com. Sarah Kirby Yung says council voted 10 to 1 against funding the Mount Pleasant pool project after residents raised concerns about preserving green space.

“We’re hearing as the city gets denser… how important that green space is for livability. It’s not just a big area there. We’ve heard that the majority of the community really wants keep it as access to the park,” she said.

The opening ceremony of the Mount Pleasant Pool in 1967. The pool operated for 42 years. (Radio Canada)

Divided Community

Proposals to rebuild the pool have divided residents.

“It’s important for kids to learn to swim when you’re in a coastal community. Most of us learned to swim in these pools as kids, myself included,” Coupar said.

Coupar, who is running for mayor this fall, said the majority of park board commissioners have been adamant about building an outdoor pool at Mount Pleasant Park and will look to federal or provincial funding to help carry out the project.

“Generally, when we have shovel plans ready and there is money available from the federal government or the province, we can apply for it under various programs,” he said. .

The Mount Pleasant Pool was demolished in 2009 and the site now houses a park which includes a playground, basketball court, skate park and community garden. (Radio Canada)

But an online petition that has garnered hundreds of signatures claims the park is not the right location for a swimming pool.

“We have a small house, so we don’t have garden space, so we use the park on the weekends,” said Mount Pleasant resident Joleen Timko.

“We know the people signing the petition are really using the space. They value it so much and they don’t want to see it replaced with a swimming pool.”

Mount Pleasant resident Joleen Timko says much of the park’s green space would be lost if an outdoor pool were built. (Radio Canada)

Timko said the city needs to recognize “the importance of green spaces” amid increasing densification.

“It’s not really a solution to climate change,” Timko said. “You are replacing trees, which sequester carbon, with something like concrete.”

Coupar said previous consultations and design plans for the pool took into consideration the park’s green space.

“There are lots of green spaces in this park and I am committed to building this swimming pool,” he said.

Richard F. Gandhi