'It means a lot to a lot of kids,' 11-year-old says at rally against proposed Maple Leaf Pool closure
Regina city council proposing to close pool because of deteriorating conditions
Lilla Fayant has a message for Regina city council: don't close our pool.
"It means a lot to a lot of kids," the 11-year-old said at a rally on Saturday, protesting the city's proposal to close Maple Leaf Pool in the city's Heritage neighbourhood.
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"It's what a lot of kids do like every day. It's all they have sometimes in the summer," she said, holding back tears and wearing a pair of swimming goggles on her head.
Lilla and her mother, Stacey Fayant, were two of nearly 50 people who gathered at Maple Leaf Pool to stand up for their neighbourhood's only recreational facility.
The pool has been around for over 70 years.
In its proposed yearly budget, city council says the pool has reached the end of its "useful life," despite the average daily attendance reaching 134 people in 2017.
However, the city's website says engineering experts have confirmed the pool should be closed due its age and current condition.
The pool's deficiencies are "beyond simple maintenance and repair," according to the city, and it "cannot safely be opened in 2019."
'Residents are really outraged'
But for many Heritage residents, the pool isn't just a place to cool off in the summer — it's a part of the neighbourhood's identity.
"Residents are really outraged and they've come together today to express support for keeping the pool open or rebuilding it," said Shayna Stock, executive director of the Heritage Community Association, who also attended the rally.
"It's really well used. It's mostly used by families and children who don't necessarily have the capacity to pay to go to other recreation facilities in the city."
She said the pool is a way to keep kids healthy and out of trouble in a neighbourhood that has a reputation for criminal activity.
Stock said she felt "a lot of sadness, worry and concern about the impact on the neighbourhood" when she heard the city is proposing to close the pool.
Stacey Fayant had a similar reaction, saying breaking the news to her daughter was especially difficult.
"I've never seen her so broken-hearted, and I think that's how it is for a lot of kids in this neighbourhood," she said, as tears began rolling down her cheeks.
"It's breaking their little hearts, and seniors too, even people my age," she said.
"I'm 40 years old and the thought of going to the pool and swimming is, like, so fun for me."
The closest pool outside of Heritage is the Wascana Pool, which is a walk of about two kilometres.
Councillor met with anger, questions
Coun. Andrew Stevens, who represents the Heritage neighbourhood, arrived at the pool as the Saturday rally hit its peak.
Stevens was met with anger, sadness and numerous questions from his constituents.
He commended their efforts, encouraged them to attend the next city council meeting and assured them there would be a neighbourhood consultation on what will replace the pool, if the closure moves forward.
"It comes to a point where it becomes more expensive to keep patching things, rather than saying, 'Forget it, we're going to do something new,'" he told reporters.
"Maybe that something new is replacing the pool as is, with modern amenities, or maybe it's a different kind of recreational structure."
Stevens said he wants to advance a motion at city council for a public consultation process to start, and finish, in the first six months of 2019.
He also wants at least $4 million in the 2020 capital budget dedicated to a recreational facility and neighbourhood consultations in Heritage.
If the pool closes, the city says it will use the funds dedicated to Maple Leaf Pool for additional summer programming in the Heritage neighbourhood and begin community engagement for developing a new recreational site.
City council is set to unveil the city's budget on Monday, when the fate of the beloved Regina pool could be decided.
It's not the first time Maple Leaf Pool has been threatened with closure. In 2013, city council rejected a recommendation in a report to close two of the city's community pools.