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'I hate it': Plan to put a roof over this Burnaby pool could tank

Burnaby staff are recommending council abandon the plan to cover Central Park Outdoor Pool, citing community feedback and costs.

Residents have had their say on whether Burnaby should cover Central Park Outdoor Pool, and the results are in: people "hate" the idea.

Now, city staff are recommending that council abandon the plan altogether.

It comes after councillors expressed dissatisfaction with two options presented by staff last month for covering or fully enclosing the pool.

Staff said the cheaper option to cover the pool — $3.8 million — would pose a "number of limitations," both financially and practically.

But the second, more expensive option to enclose the pool in a steel building — $7.47 million — also brought "operational challenges."

As part of a public engagement process, parks and rec staff attended each outdoor pool at least once between July 31 and Aug. 3 to ask for feedback on the two proposed options and held a public survey.

The response?

Almost 120 people (51 per cent of respondents to the question) answered "I hate it" when asked to provide their overall reaction to the first option to cover Central Park Pool. Another 50 people said, "I don't like it."

Option two, enclosing the pool, didn't fare any better: 133 people said (58 per cent of the question's respondents), "I hate it." Almost 40 people said, "I don't like it."

With 298 total responses, staff found nearly three-quarters of respondents either "hated" or "did not like" either option.

Burnaby pools in troubled waters

Mayor Mike Hurley originally asked staff to cover Central Park Pool last December.

With multiple local pools closed for redevelopment, including Burnaby's C.G. Brown Pool, SFU's pool and New Westminster's Canada Games Pool, municipalities are facing increased pressure from residents to find more splash time.

In an attempt to increase pool availability throughout the year, the City of Burnaby put a tarp cover over the deck at Kensington Outdoor Pool in North Burnaby for use during the winter season.

The Kensington deck cover allowed swim clubs, including artistic swimming and water polo groups, to use the pool from October to May.

That solution proved controversial, as young swimmers were left shivering all winter, exposed to the chilly temperatures.

Swimmers in the Caprice Artistic Swim Club train at Kensington Outdoor Pool in February this year. By Jennifer Gauthier/Burnaby Now

Hurley called the deck cover, made from metal scaffolding and a dripping tarp, "a complete embarrassment."

But Burnaby staff are now shuffling back to that Kensington deck cover option to make up for the significant lack of pool space in Metro Vancouver.

Staff said, when taking the community feedback, financial impact and Kensington Pool option into account, they do not recommend covering the Central Park Pool.

"While staff recognize Kensington Outdoor Pool does not fully meet the needs of aquatic clubs, it does provide additional pool use at a reasonable cost while respecting the needs of all pool users who enjoy the outdoor summer experience Central Park provides."

More than 40 per cent of respondents said they "hated" or "did not like" a partial cover at Kensington Outdoor Pool, but it also had a higher approval out of the three possible options, with 66 respondents saying, "It's OK."

Still, covering Central Park Pool was the preferred option for aquatic clubs, as 46 per cent of club members said Kensington does not currently meet their needs.

The city report noted the deck cover does not provide full protection and is not heated, which has resulted in complaints.

All the city's outdoor pools were built in the early 1960s and were never designed for winter use.

Steam billows off the warm water in thick clouds, shrouding swimmers in mist, as Caprice swimmers take a break under the Kensington pool deck cover in February. By Jennifer Gauthier, Burnaby Now

Each of the outdoor pools are "nearing the end of their useful operational lifespan," according to the report, and using any of the outdoor pools in the winter would likely reduce its lifespan even more.

None of the outdoor pools meet current inclusive design standards either, according to the report.

The parks and recreation department is currently studying the city's long-term outdoor aquatic needs.

A "robust public engagement process" on the city's outdoor pools will begin in fall 2023.

Council will vote on whether to abandon the Central Park Pool cover at its meeting on Monday (Aug. 28).