Edmonton will make outdoor pools free again in 2018

Entry to Edmonton’s outdoor pools will be free again this spring and summer, after a decision by city council’s community services committee Wednesday.

Last summer, 153,000 free swims were taken in the city's four outdoor pools from July to September

Outdoor swimming spots like Queen Elizabeth Pool, beside the Kinsmen Sports Centre, will be free in 2018. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

Entry to Edmonton's outdoor pools will be free again this spring and summer, after a decision by city council's community services committee Wednesday.

The free-swim pilot program was launched last summer for Canada's 150th birthday, with swimmers free to take a lap in the city's four outdoor pools — Fred Broadstock, Mill Creek, Oliver and Queen Elizabeth — from July to September.

During the free period, 153,000 people took part, according to the city. Overall attendance for the entire season more than doubled, with 190,000 visits in 2017 compared to 88,639 in 2016.

This year, the city wants to try the program again to further evaluate attendance and satisfaction. It'll cost the city approximately $530,000 to keep the pools open free from May to September.

"To have this option for families, for seniors on a fixed income, I think it's just a tremendous symbol and sign of what our community values are," Coun. Scott McKeen said.

"We want their kids to be active and healthy. So in some ways, it's not inexpensive, but I think it's part and parcel of what the city should be doing for citizens."

Health, wellbeing and money

Resident George Stastny supports the project, even though he probably won't partake.

"I don't swim, but I think the fact that it's a free activity, something that people can really get into, it promotes health and wellbeing. I think it's a good idea," he said.

Isabella Murasko, 16, said she would definitely take advantage of the free pools.

"I think that'd be really nice, especially for people in the city who don't have a lot of money, or kids who want to go out and have fun in the summer."

Sixteen-year-old Abdullah Noruddin agreed, saying it makes the choice between going to a recreation centre or a public pool a little easier.

"It actually helps out a lot of people, because it doesn't matter if you have money or not."