Swimmers rally to save Lord Byng pool

Jessica Kerr - Vancouver Courier

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A large group of residents gathered at Lord Byng pool Tuesday morning. The group is upset the current draft of the park board’s plan for aquatic facilities includes demolishing the West Side pool. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Lord Byng pool is small, and that’s the way its users like it.

A group of more than 50 residents squeezed into the lobby of the community pool Tuesday morning in an effort to save the facility from the chopping block.

The Vancouver Park Board is currently in the process of planning the future of the city’s pools and aquatic facilities. The board wrapped up its second round of public consultation in early October and commissioners will consider final recommendations in December.

The current draft of the “VanSplash” plan includes demolishing Lord Byng pool and building a destination facility at Connaught Park.

“Small is beautiful,” said Roger Gale, who has been swimming at Lord Byng for more than 30 years, adding that his kids learned to swim at the small pool nestled between Lord Byng secondary and Ecole Jules Quesnel.

“I really find the destination pools dehumanizing,” he said.

Chek Tay, who comes to the pool every day, started a petition to save the pool. In less than a month, he’s gathered more than 1,000 signatures and counting.

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“The people who use community pools need that community pool,” said Steacy Alexander.

Alexander, a physiotherapist, said she regularly recommends pool exercises for her clients, many of whom are recovering from injuries or living with chronic conditions, such as osteoarthritis, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.

“They wouldn’t close a community centre, would they, because every community should have its centre so why close a community pool?”

“There’s a service that this pool provides,” said Peter Genge, who has been swimming at Lord Byng for five years. “Leave it alone. Build the new one, nobody’s against that.”

Vivienne Taylor has an emotional connection to the pool. She started visiting the facility eight years ago while dealing with health issues. She took aquafit and weight-lifting classes to help with mobility.

He husband died two years ago after battling cancer.

“All the people in the pool really helped me a lot… For me, coming here was like an anchor,” she said.

“It’s meant so much to me. I don’t think I could have gotten through it… For them to eliminate this pool would just be a tragedy for me.”

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Last summer more than 4,500 residents and 60 groups took part in the first phase of public consultation.

Feedback from the second phase of consultation, which concluded Oct. 8, will be used in crafting a long-term plan for the city’s aquatic facilities. The finalized plan should go back before the board for approval before the end of the year.

According to information provided by the park board, the pool at Lord Byng, as well as pools at Vancouver Aquatic Centre, Kerrisdale, Britannia and Templeton, are nearing the end of their lifespan, are the least used, least efficient and require the most investment to operate. These pools make up 34 per cent of all visits to indoor pools.

The draft of the plan that was presented during the latest round of public consultation also includes replacing Templeton and Britannia with one pool on the Britannia site, replacing the pool at Kerrisdale with a new one and replacing the Vancouver Aquatic Centre with a new wellness-oriented destination pool at the existing site.

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The recommendations also include renovating the pool at Kensington to enhance accessibility and increase opportunities for adaptive swimming.

The park board would not comment on the recommendations until the report goes to commissioners at the Dec. 11 meeting.

jkerr@vancourier.com

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