City wading pools closing for season despite last-minute plea

The City of Ottawa will drain all 53 of its wading pools for the summer on Tuesday afternoon, despite a last-minute attempt to keep the season afloat until the current heat wave subsides.

53 pools to close amid withering heat wave due to lack of lifeguards, city says

A boy cools off in the Parkdale wading pool during a heat wave on Aug. 24, the last day wading pools in Ottawa will be open for the 2021 season. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

The City of Ottawa will drain all 53 of its wading pools for the summer on Tuesday afternoon, despite a last-minute attempt to keep the season afloat until the current heat wave subsides.

The pools were always scheduled to close Aug 24., but River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington wrote to city staff Monday asking if there was any way that at least a few of them, especially in what the councillor called high-risk communities, could remain open until the end of the week, or at least until the hot, humid weather gives way to cooler temperatures.

Ottawa has been under a heat warning since Aug. 19, with daytime highs averaging in the low 30s and the humidex often reaching 40. 

But according to Dan Chenier, general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services, too few of the lifeguards on staff, most of whom are students, were willing to stay on until the end of the week. 

The Parkdale wading pool was open for its final day on Aug. 24. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Parents disappointed

For parents watching their kids enjoy one final dip in the city's wading pools Tuesday, news of the imminent closure brought disappointment. 

"We've just found out today the pool is going to close tomorrow," said Victoria Chanie-Palmer, who brought her toddler and young son to the pool at the St-Laurent Complex.

"It's such a shame because we've been enjoying it the whole summer. It's been really great for us, especially in this hot weather, and it's the perfect place for the kids. I was really hoping it would stay open until the end of the school holidays, because that's what we need it for."

Victoria Chanie-Palmer plays with her daughter Zizi, 1, in the St-Laurent Complex wading pool. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

The gap between the closing of the wading pools and the start of school is also a concern for Liz Eidsness, who brought her two children to the Parkdale wading pool on Tuesday.

"I think it's unfortunate," said Eidsness. "I think they should keep the pools open until school starts. A lot of events, camps and things shutndown, and what are the kids to do?"

Both Chanie-Palmer and Eidsness said they appreciate the city's staffing and budget concerns, but they wondered if there isn't a way to accommodate the needs of residents who depend on wading pools, especially during a heat wave. 

"I respect that necessity," said Eidsness. "But a lot of city services are run year-round, and this one isn't open very long, so why not?"

Parent Liz Eidsness wants the city to find a way to ensure wading pools remain open until the start of the school year. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Meanwhile, lifeguard supervision and daily water testing at the city's beaches ends Aug. 29. 

Splash pads are scheduled to remain open until Sept. 15, while the city's nine deep-water outdoor pools will be closed between now and Sept. 6, depending on their location.