'Here just to try to save Byng Pool': Vancouver Park Board aquatic plan makes a splash

The Park Board says indoor pools nearing the end of their lifespan are the least used and the most expensive to renovate. But pool patrons say they're worth saving.

Plan would decommission older pools like Templeton and Lord Byng

Templeton Pool is one of the pools that could be decommissioned. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

The Vancouver Park Board is working on a plan to accommodate more people at the city's indoor pools — by getting rid of some smaller, older pools and replacing some of them with larger "destination" pools. 

Katy Amon with the Vancouver Park Board says decommissioning older facilities like Templeton Pool and Lord Byng Pool and making others larger will increase capacity at the city's indoor pools by 30 per cent

"We'll move away from small neighbourhood pools and start to increase our number of larger pools, like Hillcrest and Killarney, which can serve more people under one roof," Amon said.

According to the park board, indoor pools nearing the end of their lifespan are the least used, require the most investment to operate, and would be the most expensive to renovate.

'Like buying concert tickets'

The park board is now holding its second round of public consultations on the plan — which isn't popular with everyone.

Jeff McEwen, a father of three who showed up at an open house at Hillcrest Centre to discuss the issue, said finding spots for your kids to take swimming lessons in Vancouver is already hard enough.

"It's like buying concert tickets," he said. "If you don't register in the first 10 minutes, you don't get in."

Vancouver has a relatively small number of pools per capita compared to other major cities across Canada.

(CBC)

There are just nine indoor pools in Vancouver. Toronto and Montreal have six times as many. 

Winnipeg also has more indoor pools, and double the number of outdoor pools currently operating in Vancouver. 

"To decommission a neighbourhood pool like Byng when there are already more crowds at a place like Hillcrest, doesn't make sense to me," said Peter Genge, who also attended the open house.

The Park Board is proposing to replace Byng with with a larger destination pool at nearby Connaught Park, which is said is better suited to serve more residents.

Susan Trower says she swims at Byng Pool three times a week.

"I'm here just to try to save Byng Pool. If there's anything wrong with it, fix it, but don't take it away," she said.

But Amon said the park board's plan will increase the level of service for everyone in the city.

"It's not about the number of pools in total — it's about the number of people we can serve and the diversity of activities we can provide," she said.

With files from Tina Lovgreen