A petition going to council Monday night calls for the replacement of Lions Pool so Amherstburg kids "continue to have a pool to call their own."
"Public pools are vital community assets that enable children, families and seniors the opportunity to swim and stay healthy no matter their economic status," says the petition being spearheaded by Yvette Erickson and Tiffany Cote.
The aging Lions Pool hosted its final swim meet this summer. It is being closed to make way for a new high school, expected to open in September of 2020, the end result of a deal that saw the public school board purchase 15 acres of H. Murray Smith Centennial Park.
At this point, there is no plan to replace the pool.
The Parks Master Plan recommends the installation of a second splash pad, to be located at the Libro Centre, “to help supplement the loss” of the pool.
The plan says “the town may undertake further study into the usage and demand for public deep-water outdoor swimming facilities to explore the community needs.”
Erickson and Cote say a pool is an essential piece of community infrastructure, particularly in a town on the water where knowing how to swim is important for kids. They say the Lions Pool was easy to access and offered everyone, regardless of income, a fun and healthy recreational outlet, the opportunity to learn how to swim and relief from the sticky, summer heat.
I signed the petition in support of a replacement pool during the election campaign and, in a blog seeking candidates’ opinions on the issues, urged others to do the same. Several of my council colleagues also wrote or talked during the campaign about the importance of a replacement pool.
“Kids in Amherstburg need a public pool to replace the one being decommissioned at Centennial Park,” I wrote. “Pools provide a healthy recreational outlet for youth and seniors, a sense of community, and jobs for teens.”
While many agree on the need for a pool, there isn’t a consensus on where that pool should go or whether it should be an indoor or an outdoor facility. There are also questions about how to pay for it and ensure sustainable funding going forward. Pools aren't cheap.
Indoor pools would prove more attractive to seniors — and Amherstburg is getting older — and indoor pools are open year round, but they are also costlier to maintain. At this point, I'm not sure what type of pool or which location I would favour if council supports a pool. More information and more community consultation would be required.
In their note asking to present their pool petition to Council, Cote and Erickson call on the Town to "consult widely with the people of Amherstburg" and replace not just the pool but all amenities displaced by the sale of Centennial Park, including the skate park and baseball diamonds.
It is my understanding the town has committed to replacing amenities other than the pool although the location has not been finalized. The Mayor has said leaders of the local baseball and tennis clubs favour the Libro location.
The Parks Master Plan talks about consolidation at the Libro and also sets a goal of having a playground within 500 metres of residents living in urban areas. How much publicly accessible green space will there be on the new high school property?
Cote and Erickson dismiss the Libro Centre as a possible location and suggest, instead, a new pool could be located on town-owned green space next to St. Bernard’s, which the town purchased to create a Community Hub, or in Jack Purdie Park. They would also support locating the amenities in the 12 acres of Centennial Park, the North end, that was not sold to the school board.
In terms of paying for the new pool, they raise some potential revenue sources that were also suggested by my fellow Councillor Michael Prue during the campaign, including the collection of a parkland dedication development fee, soliciting funds through the Amherstburg Community Foundation, approaching Service Clubs for support and approaching others for funds in exchange for naming rights. The money from the sale of Centennial Park to the school board could also be used.
What do you think? Does Amherstburg need a new pool? Should it be indoor or outdoor? And where should it go? Please take this short survey to let me know!
Thanks and Go Aburg!