It was a capacity crowd at Vancouver Park Board office Monday night as commissioners got set to discuss, and potentially make a decision on, the long-term plan for the city’s pools, beaches and other aquatic amenities.
There was a lot of discussion, but the big decision of the night, whether or not to approve the VanSplash plan, will have to wait for a future meeting. After much debate, commissioners voted 4-3 to refer the plan back to staff for further consideration of the role of neighbourhood pools in the community and the qualitative experience of pool users.
NPA commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung tabled a lengthy series of amendments, including that it: “Support a balanced delivery model that includes neighbourhood scale pools as well as larger community and destination scale facilities to deliver a greater diversity of aquatic experiences.”
“What has struck me was the opportunity that we had to hear from so many members of the public about the critical and community role that the community pools and neighbourhood pools play in terms of people’s social interaction, their sense of inclusion, their ability recreate within their neighbourhoods, health benefits and more,” she said.
However, with the passing of the referral motion, the amendments and the original proposal were sent back to staff for more work on the plan that has been in the works since 2016.
Commissioners did move on some aspects of the plan, approving a new full-sized outdoor pool at Marpole Community Centre, as well as approving a motion to write to the province to request funding support for Lord Byng and Templeton pools.
There was some frustration from members of the public who came out hoping for a decision on the plan.
“I think they should just put it through with the amendments that were recommended by commissioner Kirby-Yung and just get the ball rolling,” said Jason McGarry, who spearheaded the move to save Templeton Pool. “It’s been delayed long enough as it is… It’s getting exhaustive.”
McGarry was happy to see the request for provincial funding for Templeton and Lord Byng.
“Personally, I got the sense that they all recognized the existing VanSplash plan cannot go forward,” said Lord Byng advocate Tom Perry.
“We’ll be happy to come back,” he said, vowing that supporters of the pool would be back for the next meeting.
Last month, park board commissioners heard from close to 50 residents on the plan with the majority lobbying for the board to keep smaller neighbourhood pools open. An earlier version of the proposal had Lord Byng and Templeton pools slated for demolition and replaced by larger destination pools at Connaught Park and Britannia Community Centre. The final version, which was on the table Monday night, kept the two pools open pending a review of the impacts of the new pools and consultation with pool users, the community and interest groups.
Additionally, some residents in another neighbourhood that would be affected by recommendations in the plan are also voiced concerns earlier this month. The proposal includes building a destination indoor pool with a sport-training focus at Connaught Park, which is currently home to Kitsilano Community Centre.
Some took issue with the plan, saying a redesigned centre would not have the community feeling users of the current centre enjoy.
It’s unclear exactly when staff will report back to commissioners however the board does need to make submissions in the coming months to the city for consideration as part of the capital planning process for 2019-2022. The VanSplash plan includes projects costing in the range of $150 to $200 million in the first 10 years.
However, according to park board staff the report is anticipated to come back before the board this spring so that any capital planning requests that are tied to approved recommendations in the plan can be submitted to council as part of the planning process.