THUNDER BAY – While the closure of Dease Pool has generated a vocal outcry, city officials are looking at how to give neighbourhood residents new opportunities.
A sparsely attended open house on Tuesday night at the Fort William Gardens lobby was meant to gather community opinions on potential recreational programming options in the McKellar Park neighbourhood.
Thunder Bay city council voted late last year to close the century-old outdoor swimming pool that had been a neighbourhood fixture for decades.
Kelly Robertson, the city’s general manager of community services, said the meeting was part of the engagement plan to hear community feedback about the programming they want.
“They want to have a safe place they can go to after school and the weekends,” Robertson said, adding she had seen a variety of activities mentioned on the suggestion poster boards.
A series of signs outside the arena calling for the pool to be saved greeted attendees, while a number of the suggestion boards included pleas to either rebuild or keep the pool open with a number of different financial scenarios.
Students at nearby schools had prepared lists of their own ideas, which were posted at the session.
Evergreen A United Neighbourhood executive director Linda Bruins said this represents a chance to help families and children have the opportunities they want.
“Kids are really smart and basically what they’re saying to us is that they just want more opportunity to have a safe place to go and do more activities,” Bruins said. “They want to dance more. They want to have music nights. They want to have space to just be a kid and play.”
Bruins, who swam in the pool during her youth, said while she supports outdoor pools, in this case the ability to provide year-round programming is better than having the pool operate for just eight weeks in the summer.
“From September to June is a long time to not be outside doing something. We offer the opportunity for kids to skate, go sliding, go snowshoeing, board games,” Bruins said. “We have after school homework club. We do hot meals five days a week.”
Robertson said the city is exploring partnerships with different organizations to help deliver new, year-round opportunities in the neighbourhood.
“As a municipality, we can offer a particular framework or backbone but we’re not necessarily the technical experts in every activity so having a partner that has more expertise and knowledge of that particular activity that can work with us to introduce our children and youth to that sport or activity is really valuable,” she said.
Robertson said city staff will gather the input received from the session and use it to develop a programming plan, with the intent of having activities in place by the start of the summer.