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Winnipeg

Eldon Ross Pool offers ‘community feel’ in area that’s lost other amenities, residents tell councillor

Lisa Jenkins says the city’s proposal to close a 40-year-old indoor swimming pool in northwest Winnipeg would hurt families like hers.

Her son, Ethan, is autistic and non-verbal. Jenkins says he’s not allowed to swim in the deep end at most other pools, because they make him do laps to do so, but he doesn’t know how.

Jenkins says Eldon Ross is a smaller pool that has more of a “community feel” to it, allowing her son to “just jump in.”

“It’s totally calm and safe for him. Everybody knows him there. It’s a good place for him to go to,” she told CBC News.

Jenkins is one of about 50 people who gathered at the Brooklands Active Living Centre to voice their concerns about the city’s suggestion to close the Eldon Ross Pool during a town hall Monday night hosted by Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas).

A woman is seen speaking at a microphone, while holding an arm around her younger son.
Lisa Jenkins says Eldon Ross is a smaller pool that offers community to her son, Ethan, who is autistic and non-verbal. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Released earlier this month, the city’s preliminary 2024 budget includes a proposal to replace or decommission 20 outdoor wading pools and open 10 new splash pads, at a cost of about $20 million.

The Eldon Ross indoor pool was one of three larger pools that would also be closed in the coming years under the draft budget.

Colin Fast, a spokesperson for Mayor Scott Gillingham’s office, says the city’s recommendation to have the pool closed was based on low attendance and significant repair costs, as well as other potential recreational investments that could be made in the Brooklands neighbourhood.

“It’s worth noting the preliminary budget does include approximately $4.5 million for new recreation facilities located in the area, including a gymnasium and spray pad,” Fast said in a Monday statement to CBC News.

The city had also proposed closing the Eldon Ross pool four years ago, when officials issued dire warnings about the city’s ability to fund recreation services.

Murray Schroeder, a senior who frequents the pool, says attendance is likely down since its winter operating hours are too restrictive for children to enjoy the facility after school, and no swimming lessons are being offered there.

“In the summer, they’re open seven days a week, and it’s been at capacity a lot of those days,” he told CBC News.

Schroeder says he knew many of the people gathered at Monday’s town hall — including Jenkins and her family — thanks to the pool.

“You meet a lot of people there that you normally never would interact with.”

Pool ‘integral’ to community

At the town hall, Santos heard from concerned Brooklands and Weston residents who suggested that the pool partner up with schools to offer swimming lessons, in order to increase attendance.

Santos also shared her own plan to propose that Eldon Ross remain open for another year while a feasibility study into the facility is conducted during the city’s budget delegations in March.

“It’s important for me that something remains in this community,” the councillor told CBC News.

“I’m really hoping that the province can also help…. If we can have the city put in some money now, and we can leverage some provincial funding so we can do this study, then that would be very helpful for the community.”

A woman with short, black hair and a pinkish-purple shirt is pictured.
Coun. Vivian Santos says she will be meeting with Notre Dame MLA Malaya Marcelino to discuss next steps for Eldon Ross pool. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Santos said she will also be meeting with Notre Dame MLA Malaya Marcelino to discuss next steps.

Michelle Kirkbride, a community development co-ordinator with the NorWest Co-op Community Health Centre, says the resource centre takes children to the pool for free swim programs every week.

The pool is important to the community’s health since it has lost a library, a grocery store and a recreational centre since 1999, she said.

“That’s a lot of loss with absolutely no new investment,” she said.

“We’re one of the few organizations — along with the school and the Brooklands senior centre — that’s still here providing services, and the pool is an integral part of that.”

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