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Residents want extended season for outdoor pools, better accessibility, more spray parks

The city is halfway through creating a strategy for all its outdoor pools and aquatic facilities, which all date back to the 1960s

At Burnaby’s Parks Recreation and Culture Committee (PRCC) meeting on June 11, Rebecca Thandi, director of PRC strategic initiatives with the city, updated the committee about the progress of Burnaby’s outdoor aquatic services and facilities strategy. 

Thandi also updated the committee on the results of the city’s public engagement efforts.

Thandi said the strategy, which will govern the construction and operation of outdoor aquatics facilities, will be completed by the end of 2024. She added that city staff are currently halfway through creating the new strategy. 

According to Thandi’s research, the city’s pools are in dire need of an upgrade. 

“The city’s four outdoor pools were all built during the 1960s, and more than half of these pool systems are at end of life,” Thandi said.

The Central Park pool, built in 1963, was in the worst condition, with 74% of its facilities at or near the end of their life. McPherson pool, built in 1965, is 59% near the end of life. In addition, none of the current facilities were designed with accessibility, inclusivity, or sustainability in mind. Thandi added that the pools’ water tanks have all endured many years of freeze/thaw cycles and need upgrades. 

Burnaby Central Park Outdoor Pool was built in 1963. Photo: Shutterstock

More than 800 people responded to the public engagement survey posted on the city’s Your Voice platform, 92% of whom were Burnaby residents. The city also hosted several open houses and focus groups.  

“Burnaby loves their outdoor pools. This was clear from the enthusiastic participation in the workshops. Much of the feedback was consistent with what was relayed by the survey respondents,” Thandi said. 

The survey results show that 77% of respondents primarily use outdoor pools to cool off during the summer. Extended hours and season were another popular request, with 34% of respondents saying they wanted the season to be longer, and some wanted extended programming times for activities such as lap swims. Many respondents said they wanted to see new facilities similar to Aldergrove Outdoor Experience and New Brighton Pool.

“Participants expressed a want for unique programming, the importance of being able to cool down balanced with responsible use of water, and the desire for spray parks that are not just designed for children, but for all ages,” Thandi said. 

Trustee Kristin Schnider from the Board of Education commented on the need for universal facilities that would be more inclusive for gender-diverse pool users. Schnider gave the example of universal changing rooms with floor-to-ceiling doors and walls. 

Thandi responded that the city is halfway through creating the strategy, and inclusivity is one of the topics on which she is seeking feedback from the committee. 

Resident representative Rainy Kent commented on the continued existence of wading pools in Burnaby, saying, “I’m surprised that actually wading pools are still allowable. I would have thought with the way things are currently, spray parks would be permissible, but outdoor wading pools not.”

Kent then clarified what she meant by allowable, “What I meant is you’re filling up a pool completely in the day, and then that water goes, and the next day you fill up the pools, and then all that water goes.” 

Children playing in a spray park. Photo: City of Burnaby

Thandi said there are nine wading pools in Burnaby, all built in 1965.  

“When I noticed that fun fact, I thought we must have been really busy that year,” Thandi said. She responded to Kent’s comment, saying the city plans to consider the costs of recirculating the water and how to cope with future water restrictions due to hotter summers.

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal, chair of the committee, agreed with residents who want the outdoor pools open for a more extended period throughout the year. 

“In the short term, I think maybe I would ask the GM to take a closer look at the season we have. I think it starts a little too late and ends a little too early. Considering that the weather is staying warm, we probably want to consider our budgets for future years, if not for this year, to add a couple of weeks before and a couple of weeks after,” Dhaliwal said. 

While the survey is now closed, Burnaby residents can follow the progress of this project on the Your Voice platform, where the city posts regular updates. 

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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