After a long hot spell and a taste of the reality of summer without a place for families to gather and kids to cool off, St. Davids residents are protesting the Town’s decision not to open their community pool.
Most of the kids have taken lessons at the pool, many joined the swim team, and families made use of the open and lane swims.
Several said they were hoping for increased swim times at the pool this summer. The summer has been so hot, other communities are keeping their pools open longer hours so residents can cool off, and instead, they’re looking at an empty pool.
“All we need is some water,” says Adriana Vizzari. “We’re hoping they’ll try to open the pool and see what happens,” she says. “We’ve already asked for the pool to stay open. We’ve raised community support and we’ve raised money. We’ve already fought this fight. I don’t know why we have to do it again.”
Once the Province cleared the way for pool openings, the Town announced it would be operating the Memorial Park pool and the Virgil splash pad. The decision to leave the St. Davids Pool closed this summer was made by the Town’s emergency control group, based on cost.
Interim operations director Kevin Turcotte says the Old Town pool “has been consistent, year after year,” and is more reliable than the St. Davids facility, which is expected to be replaced for the 2021 summer.
He says he can’t be sure how the pool in the St. Davids Lions park has overwintered until the filtration system is turned on, and the pool is filled with water, and by that point, a lot of money will have been wasted if it can’t be opened without expensive repairs.”
If it weren’t for costs relating to the pandemic, “I would open it and deal with mechanical problems, if there are any.”
But Vizzari says once the Province announced municipalities could open their pools, there was no reason to keep St. Davids closed. “Pools were allowed once we were in phase 2. We’re not asking for anything that isn’t safe.”
The plan all along was to open the aging pool for one last season, she says, and that shouldn’t have changed.
“Old Town has Memorial Park. Virgil has the splash pad. St. Davids is once again overlooked for any family recreation,” said Vizzari.
“The second they need to cut costs, they cut from St. Davids.”
During such “incredibly hot days” in past summers, the pool would have been full, she says.
Vizzari points to a recent statement of the Life Saving Society, which has called on municipalities to open their pools and waterfronts to allow the public to cool off safely while continuing to adhere to all current COVID precautions.
The society is a charity that seeks to prevent drowning and water-related injuries by providing training programs, education and safety management services. It has said during the pandemic that swimming lessons are key to preventing drownings, and can be taught safely by implementing COVID protocols.
Jasper Schouten, a father whose kids have grown up using the St. Davids pool and would like to be able to swim there this summer, says “we have more residents in St. Davids than ever before. Why are we neglecting an asset we are already paying for?”
His daughter Leah, now 14, took lessons at the pool, joined the swim team, and when she was 11, trained with her brother Noah, then 14, to swim across Lake Ontario to raise money for Red Roof Retreat. Along with two friends, they reached their goal of $10,000, bad weather and a swimmer who went missing forced the event to be called off.
“We trained at this pool,” says Leah.
“We swam here. This was the place to be. I don’t understand how they can just close the pool and stop kids and teens from swimming.”
Although Memorial Park is open for lane swimming, it’s not an option for kids unless they can get a ride, she says.
She has taken advantage of the lane swims once, but the time has to be reserved and she’s found it very difficult to book a spot online — it’s always full.
“I’ve been there when people have shown up to swim, and there are no openings,” she says.
Jasper Schouten recalls the years of families going to the pool after work on weekdays, and would make plans to meet there on the weekends.
“We’d say ‘we’re going to meet at the club.’ That’s what we called it.”
“It’s been such a huge part of the community,” says Vizzari. “It’s how we met friends, and how our children met their friends.”
It seems even more important now with the cancellation of school and all events since March, she says, when the kids are missing the opportunity to make those connections.
“Niagara Falls has pools open for public swims,” says Vizzari, “but is going to Niagara Falls really the answer?”