A potential cost-saving measure that would temporarily shut down Beban Pool is getting a cool reception from hundreds of people who have petitioned against the idea.
Two grassroots petitions have been launched in response to a recommendation in the city’s core review that suggests the city consider a three-month pool shutdown to save approximately $280,000 a year.
Beban Pool is already shut down for a month each year for maintenance.
But not all residents are interested in using the alternative – the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre.
Peggy Brownie, who launched a formal petition against the potential pool closure in June, said Beban Pool has a shallow end where you can stand. A lot of seniors can’t keep doing length after length and have to stand, get their breath or adjust their goggles. NAC is a deep-water pool, she said, adding to stop you grab onto the side and when you’re a senior you don’t have the flexibility to hang off a bulkhead. She also said the water is cooler at the aquatic centre and she doesn’t believe the other facility would be as accessible for those who live in the Beban area.
So far, she said her petition has more than 400 signatures.
An online petition has also been created at http://you.leadnow.ca called Stop the Closure of Beban Pool, Nanaimo. It had 616 signatures as of press time Wednesday.
“To cut off this and it’s such a benefit for all the citizens who use the pool and gym, it’s atrocious. It’s just terrible,” said Brownie, who believes other ways can be found to save money. “As far as I am concerned, a pool is a facility for the taxpayers. It shouldn’t be a money-making proposition. It’s like a library.”
Geraldine Prouten started the online petition, which she plans to present to council.
Beban provides a service to people in the community to help them keep physically fit and it builds community spirit, she said. She doesn’t think it’s reasonable to ask users of Beban Park to go to NAC for three months and said what she envisions happening is that people wouldn’t go and consequently it would affect their physical states. Her husband cannot walk and uses the pool three times a week where a lift is used to place him in and take him out of the water. He found the water temperatures too low at NAC, and that the dressing rooms are not as adequate for people with disabilities, said Prouten. She said when Beban closes for a month in the summer, her husband waits for it to open and has no way to maintain his physical status during that time.
“I just think that what the city council needs to do is listen to what the people who are using Beban Pool have to say about the loss of it to their lives,” she said. “To me it doesn’t make any sense to be closing a pool that is vital to public safety, it’s vital to public health, it’s a centre for the community and it’s the closest one for instance to the middle of the city and north Nanaimo. Why would they want to send everybody to one pool that’s a long way away?”
George Reid, a Lantzville resident who shares concerns about the aquatic centre’s cold water and lack of places to stand for those swimming lengths, wants more rationale in terms of the quantification of the reasons for closing it and said “they don’t have it.” He also said he’s looked into the number of people coming to the city and there’s going to be an increase over the coming years, so he questions closing a facility and providing less service instead of more service.
Mayor Bill McKay said the recommendation to close the pool is based on accountants looking at the cost of the operation, a single dimension, and it’s the decision of councillors on whether or not they follow it. While he doesn’t consider the online petition valid with respect to the Community Charter, he is prepared to take e-mails and talk directly about Beban Pool and does want to know more about concerns.
McKay said as part of early discussion concerning Beban, it was suggested that perhaps the city is not decreasing the level of service by closing the pool for three months. If lifeguards are relocated to local swimming holes, like Westwood Lake or Departure Bay, for example, the city can still offer other types of swimming service, he said.
“You are just not offering it in the same fashion.”
A proposed implementation strategy for core service review recommendations is expected this month.