OP-ED: Community Pool Still Threatened

By Margery Duda

Hastings Park pool closed 1994. Oak Park pool closed 1997. Sunset Park pool closed 2008. And now Mount Pleasant’s community pool may be headed for the same fate.

The swimming pool located near the old Mount Pleasant Community Centre is the last full-sized neighbourhood outdoor pool in Vancouver. For the past several years, the Mount Pleasant Pool Committee and the Mount Pleasant Community Centre Association have been committed to seeing a replacement swimming pool built so that the community and the City of Vancouver will not suffer the loss of this important recreational facility. 
 
Despite recent consultation results that overwhelmingly favour building a new outdoor pool in Mount Pleasant, pool advocates fear that like the Bloedel Conservatory and Stanley Park farm, Vancouver’s parks board may vote for the closure of another hallmark city amenity. It’s now down to two crucial meetings on Dec. 10 and Dec. 14 where citizens will have the opportunity to convince our elected parks board to do the right thing and honour their promises to the public.

Guided by years of public support to replace the city’s system of outdoor swimming pools as they wear out instead of demolishing them, pool advocates have argued the city needs to rebuild Mount Pleasant pool. A renewed pool would ensure another 50 to 60 years of healthy outdoor summer recreation for people of all ages and physical abilities.

Unfortunately, senior parks board staff bent on their own agenda, coupled with a compliant group of elected commissioners, have conspired to bring the Mount Pleasant pool one more step closer to closure. The history of the community’s struggle to preserve this pool is nothing short of shocking.

In October 2005, after three years of heavy lobbying by community groups, a unanimous motion was passed by the then COPE-run parks board to retain and rebuild the outdoor swimming pool, overriding the 2001 staff recommendations to permanently demolish the pool.

Although parks board staff were directed to work with the community to raise funds for the new pool, they remained opposed to the project and continued to recommend permanent closure. This obstinacy cost the community three years of valuable fundraising time, making it so the Mount Pleasant Community Centre Association could not legitimately raise funds for a project that lacked parks board cooperation.

Flash forward to November 2008. A majority of newly elected commissioners promised they would work toward the replacement the pool. Verbal assurances by Vision and Green Party elected officials were given at all-candidates’ debates during the civic election, while the Coalition of Progressive Electors had a written commitment in their election platform.

Barely six months later, at a June 2009 parks board meeting dozens of angry citizens demanded action on the COPE/Green/Vision election promises, eliciting renewed assurances from commissioners they would do whatever they could to save the pool. Public outrage exploded over comments in the media by Vision commissioner and soon-to-be parks board chair Aaron Jasper when he reversed his stance saying Mount Pleasant Park would only get a facelift, once the community centre and pool are gone.

The board’s relations with pool supporters continued to worsen over the summer and into the fall.

A slickly-designed newsletter was mailed to residents in August 2009 with a question-and-answer information piece. However, the newsletter only referred to the out-dated 2001 staff study that had recommended demolishing the pool. No mention was made of the  2005 parks board vote to replace the pool.

The newsletter also announced a full public consultation process on the future of Mount Pleasant pool and park would take place in November 2009. However, this was not the open, authentic, and genuine process that Commissioner Jasper promised the public in June. It was primarily an online survey with a few mediated focus groups that asked participants the same questions that were in the online survey.

Moreover, the parks board consultative survey made no mention of rebuilding the full-size swimming pool, offering only the following three options for potential uses for the park: 
  1. a green space for one million dollars;
  2. a wading pool for six million dollars; or 
  3. retain the existing building for four to six million dollars.
Numerous letters and emails were sent to parks board over this fiasco. But for long-time parks board watchers, this manipulative and confusing public consultation is something they have come to expect from city staff.

Yet, despite all of the odds, citizens rallied around the pool. Survey results released December 5 confirmed a majority of respondents favoured a park design option that included the pool. Now staff are recommending the parks board renew the 2005 recommendation to build a replacement pool when funds become available.

But the fight for the pool is not over yet.

The outcome of the consultation and recommendations for the future of the outdoor swimming pool will be presented at the planning and environment committee meeting at the parks board office at 2099 Beach Avenue on Dec. 10 at 6 pm.

Our group urges citizens to attend as an observer or register to speak in support of putting Mount Pleasant pool on the next capital plan. Call 604-257-8451 before 12 noon on Dec. 10 to register. The planning and environment committee will take their recommendations to the full board soon after this meeting, on December 14 where additional community support will be needed.

Let’s make sure we rebuild this treasured community amenity so that generations to come can enjoy swimming in Mount Pleasant.

Margery Duda is the founder of the Mount Pleasant Outdoor Pool Committee.

OP-ED articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Think City. To make a submission to the OP-ED section of the Think City Minute, please email editor@thinkcity.ca for details.

Always favourite

Community Swimming pool has always been favorite to me since my childhood. You get to meet your friends, families, neighbours all at the same place and in minimal price the great recreation. Everyone should pledge from their side to preserve this asset. I do not want the City of Vancouver to suffer the loss of this important recreational facility. Above Ground Pool

Mt Pleasant Pool

An outdoor pool is one of the cheapest ways for us to provide recreation for families and their kids who cannot afford the high cost of fitness clubs or even team sports. It is in our best interest to provise more, not fewer pools. It's kids with little use for their abundant energy who cause us grief.

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