Special-needs campers long for unfinished pool

Construction delays caused by a rainy spring have kept special-needs people at a camp in southern Alberta out of the pool this summer.

Construction delays have kept special-needs people at a camp in southern Alberta out of the pool this summer.

The pool at the Easter Seals' Camp Horizon, just south of Bragg Creek, had been scheduled to open June 1, but the heavy rains that fell in the spring kept construction at a standstill.

And unlike summer camps that have access to natural bodies of water, a pool is essential for Camp Horizon, says Anna Garcia, the director of operations.

"Our campers all have such special needs and with their disabilities we can't expose them to the potential risks of what's happening in a river or a pond," Garcia told CBC News. "So the pool allows us to have that far better-controlled environment where we know it's 100 per cent safe for our campers."

It took years for Camp Horizon to raise the $400,000 needed to build the wheelchair-accessible pool, which isn't just for recreation. Many of the campers will find it therapeutic, Garcia said.

"The water environment provides such a great environment for the kids that have reduced mobility and have sore joints and muscles from their various conditions," she said.

Surrounded by forest and featuring a spectacular mountain view, the camp's climbing wall and high-ropes course offer disabled and special-needs Albertans a chance to enjoy the active Alberta lifestyle.

But a camp without water sports just isn't the same, program director Brandon Maclean told CBC News, and the fact the pool looks ready makes things even harder.

"You get the kids with their faces plastered against the fence trying to go in there and play but it's just taking forever," Maclean said, noting that critical features, including a heater, have yet to be installed.

The weather that stalled construction in the spring has improved in recent days. But with the camp closing for the season next week, Garcia said, she can't get her hopes up anymore.