Winnipeggers are making waves about a plan to close their local pools.
The new four-year budget calls for three pools to be shut down and 20 wading pools would be replaced or decommissioned.
With the closures, the city would invest in 10 new spray pads at a cost of $20 million.
But some say the swimming pools are too important to pull the plug on.
“I was shocked. I was angry,” said Coun. Matt Allard.
The three pools are the indoor Eldon Ross Pool in Brooklands, the outdoor Windsor Park Pool and the Happyland Outdoor Pool in St. Boniface – the area Allard represents.
Allard is lobbying his council colleagues to save the pools and he said he has identified $1 million in the budget that could be shifted.
“We’re in a meth and opioid crisis and these are specifically the types of amenities that we need to engage in healthy constructive activity.”
During the budget unveiling on Wednesday, Coun. Jeff Browaty – the city’s finance chair – said the plan is to modernize aquatic facilities.
He said a lot of pools are at the end of their lifespan and have low attendance. Plus, the city is having trouble attracting lifeguards, which is why the spray option is being looked at.
“They do need attendance by staff to ensure that they’re safe and that everything is working. But you don’t need somebody there on an ongoing basis. So the season could be a lot longer,” Browaty said on Wednesday.
But this decision is sparking backlash. Amber Gauthier, the president of the Windsor Park Resident’s Association, said the neighbourhood is pushing to keep the pool open.
“This pool means a lot to the community, my family in particular. My husband and daughter come here almost daily in the summer,” said Gauthier.
“Last night, we told my daughter about this and said that they were thinking of a splash pad instead and she was actually crying because she’s 10. A splash pad is not that fun for that age group.”
If the budget is approved, the wading pools would be closed between 2026 and 2029, while the splash pads would be opened between 2027 and 2030.
There are also five other spray pads opening this year and next and 13 other wading pools are closing as planned in previous budgets.
The budget now makes its way through the approvals process at city hall, with a final council vote set for March 20.
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