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New West stands by plan to keep Hume Park pool closed this summer

Pool to reopen in 2022 after closures in summers of 2020 and 2021
The city is standing by its decision to keep Hume Park Pool closed for a second straight summer.

New Westminster is standing by its decision not to open Hume Park Outdoor Pool in the summer of 2021.

In March, council asked staff to revisit a plan to keep the outdoor pool in Hume Park closed for the second consecutive summer. Nearly 400 people have signed an online petition urging the city to open Hume Park pool this summer.

An April 26 report to council stated staff recommended the pool be closed this summer for a number of reasons. These include COVID-19 public health orders and public safety requirements, staffing considerations, capital maintenance requirements and financial implications. It also noted that work required to prepare the pool for swimmers would likely result in a delayed opening of the pool this summer.

“When I read the report, it says we can only have one staff on site under COVID regulations but we need four to operate it. We can only have two people in the change rooms at a time. I think it was we can only have 15 people in the pool at a time, which, the way Hume Park pool operates, that means three to five families, probably,” said Coun. Jaimie McEvoy. “This isn’t an issue so much of money to do it. It isn’t an issue of the will to do it. It’s an issue of COVID. Not all our facilities are equally able to handle people being inside of spaces with COVID regulations.”

The staff report stated the facility’s size means it would be limited to 15 people for each reserved drop-in periods, as a result of public health orders, WorkSafe BC requirements and guidance from the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association’s operating guidelines. It also noted that major maintenance work would need to be competed in order to ready the facility for use this summer, and that work should have already been underway.

“It is more realistic to expect the facility opening will be delayed by a number of weeks,” said the report.

In order to open the pool this summer, work required to physically prepare the pool for opening and to train staff to work at the facility should have been discussed months ago, said Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation.

Summer plans

Gibson said the parks and recreation department is “pulling out the stops” to ensure residents on the east side of town receive some other forms of recreation services and programming that would not have been available in that neighbourhood in past years.

“Not in a way to replace the experiences of the pool, but simply to provide some additional opportunities for children and families that would not have traditionally existed in that particularly neighbourhood,” he said. “We do look forward to the opportunity to introduce that innovative and unique programming that the department prides itself on, specifically in that particular neighbourhood.”

Scavenger hunts, virtual concerts, walking tours and a social media contest are among the initiatives that parks and rec will start rolling out in late spring. Registered programs to be offered at Hume Park will include bike courses, roller blade lessons, yoga, a sport ball camp and outdoor day camps.  Staff is also looking into the feasibility of allowing an overnight camping program in lower Hume Park for a limited number of registered campers.

Gibson said details about the programs will be made available to the public through marketing materials and social media. He said people wanting detailed information about for not opening Hume Park pool this summer is available in the staff report presented at the April 26 council meeting.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said he was troubled about the way this year’s closure of Hume Park Outdoor Pool came forward, as it came down to seven words out of “thousands and thousands of words” in the city’s 2021 budget documents.

“I really feel strongly that we missed the boat on that,” he said. “I would ask in future that something as significant as that, that it’s dealt with as a single item as itself and brought to council in a different format.”

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus