British Columbia

Here's what it will be like returning to pools in some B.C. municipalities this fall

You will have to pre-register for a dip but you probably won't have to fight for space in a swim lane.

Be prepared to pre-register if you plan on swimming in September

Prince George aquatics manager Jim Worthington outlines the rules that will be in place when the pool re-opens Sept. 8, 2020. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Every day, a group of seniors meets outside the Prince George Aquatic Centre, despite the fact the building hasn't been open since March.

"They miss the pool, so they continue that social routine in the parking lot," said Jim Worthington, aquatics manager for the city. "They're peering through the window."

Now, Worthington is preparing to welcome the devoted swimmers back into the water for the first time in months, albeit without as much opportunity for socializing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pool reopens Sept. 8, arrows will direct people where to walk, change and shower. The hot tub will be limited to three people at a time, with a five-minute time limit and the indoor river — popular with people with mobility issues — can only have one person at a time, also with a five-minute limit.

Swim lanes will be open, but there will be no lessons or classes, and people will have to pre-register for swim times to ensure there are no more than 50 people in the building at a time.

Still, Worthington says, even if activity is more limited there's a real eagerness in the community to get back into the water, especially among competitive swimmers and those who use the pool for rehabilitation or mobility exercises.

"I think they understand that it's a slow start and we can't be all things to all people right at the beginning," he said.

Taped arrows mark two metre barriers between swimmers in the hot tub, showers and changerooms at the Prince George Aquatic Centre. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)
Jim Worthington provides a preview of how the Prince George Aquatic Centre will operate during COVID-19. 5:39

Prince George swimmers can register for a place in the pool starting Aug. 31. They will need to provide information to pool staff for contact tracing and members of the same family unit will not have to distance from each other.

A pool of one's own

On South Vancouver Island, at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre, the lifestyle and lap pool will also reopen in September and swimmers will need to pre-register for swim times.

Family groups, including social bubbles with more than one family that have been interacting safely together, can also book the entire facility for an hourly rate. These groups can be up to 40 people.  

When the whole facility is not booked out for one group, the total number of allowed swimmers is lower.

"Twenty-four will be our maximum for the beginning," said aquatics programmer Meghan Nicklin, adding 12 swimmers will be allowed in each pool at one time.

Two people will be permitted in one lap lane, but Nicklin said one will have to start in the shallow and one in the deep end.

Swimmers in Esquimalt will check in with the lifeguards at the back doors of the facility and will be given a basket for their valuables as lockers will not be available.

In both Prince George and Esquimalt, there will be lifeguards on site to ensure swimmer safety and that physical distance measures are being followed.

With files from On The Island