The closing of Jackson Pool on East Street in 2015 affected many in the neighborhood. Now comes the question of what to do you do with a former pool? Do you refurbish, build a new pool or just scrap it? The plan put forward last Thursday night by Rob Harwood, the City’s director of Parks and Recreation, was to close down Jackson Pool and build a spray pad and community hub in Germain Park.
This would make the second city amenity that has been closed down in that neighbourhood. Germain Arena has already been closed and now Jackson Pool. Harwood explained that most of the programs that were being run out of Jackson Pool had seamlessly moved over to Tecumseh Pool and the Cox Center, which is only 1.8 kilometers from Jackson.
Jackson Pool was built in 1966 and had been in operation 10 years longer than most public pools stay in operation but the issue of under usage lead the City to temporarily close the facility in 2016. Now before the final proposals are presented to Council later this month, Harwood wanted the public to have its final say. Harwood told the Lambton Shield that the closure of a neighbourhood facility brings out a lot of emotions but his job is to examine the data and just look at the facts and he says the facts state that the public was not supporting the pool.
But is that really the case? Many in the audience complained about the hours of operation of Jackson Pool and the fact that it was not open on weekends or in the evenings like it was many years ago. Harwood presented data that showed that birth rates were down and the childbearing population was on the decline, but a member of the school board was in attendance and refuted that saying that the demographics for Sarnia had stabilized and that with the consolidation of schools the demographics of school-aged children was actually on the increase.
The biggest issue Parks and Recreation has is that the pool was not being used to its capacity. They claimed that Jackson Pool, which has a capacity of 175, was only operating at 65%. The City also claimed that swimming registration was drastically down at Jackson, combine that with the difficulty getting certified lifeguards and operating costs, it only makes sense to close Jackson Pool when everyone can easily go to Tecumseh. But is it really that easy to go to Tecumseh?
A number of parents spoke up that they were turned away Tecumseh because it was over its limit of 219 people. Tecumseh Pool must split its capacity with the splash pad and that limits the number of swimmers greatly. Parks and Recreation officials seemed shocked to hear that people were being turned away from both facilities.
There also seems to be an issue of when programs were being offered. Swimming lessons, which is a driving force for a public pool, were not being offered at convienient times. Lessons were not available on the weekends or in the evening, when parents could take their children. Dawn Marie Silverthorn and Katie Horvath, both parents, were quite upset that programs were not offered when working families could get their children out to participate.
Harwood said that in order to refurbish Jackson Pool, new pipes would have to be installed as well as a new liner. Jackson Pool also needs upgrades to meet provincial accessibility standards, including washroom and change room upgrades. Estimates run just over $500,000 to bring that pool up to snuff. On the other side, it would cost between $275,000-375,000 to put in a spray pad and a community hub in Germain Park.
Director Harwood was very open with inviting further discussion on ideas like corporate sponsorship, marketing and any way to improve the odds of making Jackson Pool a worthwhile City amenity. Proposals go before Council November 20.