On a hot summer day, Norwood residents say their pool is always busy.
For generations, Norwood Pool has been a little oasis just a short walk from downtown. It’s surrounded by a grassy hill, baseball diamonds and public tennis courts.
“The pool is essential,” says Monique Lacoste, a lifelong Norwood resident and chair of the Save Norwood Pool Committee — which is working to halt the City of Winnipeg’s plan to shut the pool down.
The neighbourhood, she says, prides itself on active lifestyle amenities that include the moderately sized outdoor pool, which is free to use.
“It’s a gathering place. There are third-, fourth-generation people coming here with their kids, their grandkids, their great -grandkids.”
Her committee formed almost immediately after learning at a community meeting on May 20 that city administrators plan to close the pool.
There’s no firm plan for the timeline for decommissioning the pool, but the city has said this will be the last summer it will be open.
Lacoste says since the May community meeting, her group has distributed 100 lawn signs that read “I [heart] Norwood Pool” and they’re printing dozens more. She is also organizing a pool party in late August to show how much the pool means to the area.
Councillor now questions pool’s fate
Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface) said when he first spoke to residents about the pool’s closure, he was under the impression there was no other way forward.
He understood from city administration the land was no longer viable for a pool. A natural aquifer under the facility had risen to the point where groundwater was seeping into the swimming water, contaminating the pool.
But now, after speaking with residents, he says he’s less certain about the pool’s fate. He also has one of the committee’s lawn signs in front of his house.
“If there is a way to keep this pool going then I’m going to try,” Allard said.
“My commitment to the group and the community is to work with this committee and administration to see if there is any way to keep the pool going.”
Community group wants to see evidence
Allard said part of what changed his mind was an engineering report prepared for the Save Norwood Pool Committee that argues decommissioning the pool — which would involve environmental remediation — could cost as much as, or more than, fixing the pool.
In June, he put forward a motion, since approved by council, to direct city administration to prepare a report looking into the cost of shutting down the pool.
If you came to the decision to close the pool it has to have been based on some sort of facts. We would like to see those facts.– Monique Lacoste, Save Norwood Pool committee
At a committee meeting in July, he asked that administration work with the Save Norwood Pool committee to explore alternatives to closing the pool. (That motion still needs approval at the standing committee level.)
Lacoste says she wants to work with the city to come to a solution everyone can live with.
“All we’re saying is, before we put the key in the door, let’s continue the conversation,” she said.
“If you came to the decision to close the pool, it has to have been based on some sort of facts. We would like to see those facts.”
The group would like to know if lifting the base of the pool’s deep end could possibly mitigate the seepage issue, for example.
Norwood Pool, built in 1962, is similar to most other unheated outdoor pools in Winnipeg — it’s reaching the end of its service life.
Four out of Winnipeg’s five unheated outdoor pools are in St. Boniface, and were built in the 1950s and 1960s.
The cost to replace an outdoor pool runs anywhere from $4 million to $6 million, based on the pool’s size, said Joelle Schmidt, a spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg. That does not include any extras like slides or diving boards.
The city’s public service estimates existing outdoor pools require $10.6 million over the next 10 years to keep them in “acceptable” condition.
Schmidt said city officials plan to meet with the Save Norwood Pool committee to share information on the facility’s status.
Pools an investment, says advocate
Marianne Cerilli, who successfully lobbied and raised money for years on behalf of Friends of Sherbrook Pool to repair that indoor pool, said the key to saving recreation amenities is strong community organizing and reaching out to groups that advocate for recreation.
“We have a city that’s kind of broke,” she said. “They’ve had tax freezes and tax cuts for decades and this is what happens. You don’t get the reinvestment and things are allowed to deteriorate.”
Aside from helping keep people healthy through exercise, Cerilli said, pools give youth a place to go when they might otherwise get into trouble.
“They really are an investment and the city council has to see this as an investment and not just a budget expenditure.”
Even if the closure of Norwood Pool goes forward, Allard said council will ultimately have the final say during next year’s budget process on whether it is decommissioned.
Published at Tue, 07 Aug 2018 06:00:00 -0400