The City of Victoria was awarded a $1 million grant to make the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre more accessible to those with disabilities. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff) Crystal Pool on Quadra Street. (File Photo)

Crystal pool advocates hold mixed feelings as Victoria explores previously studied sites

Local neighbourhood associations, swimming advocates vote for different locations

Victoria council’s decision to reconsider original pool plans at previously-studied sites has been met with some mixed results.

On Jan. 9 council rejected a staff proposal for a new $725,000 feasibility study for a completely new pool design, and opted instead to use the plans originally proposed in 2018. Council also asked staff to gather all information and studies conducted for possible sites, with a special emphasis on the vacant parking lot next to the Royal Athletic Park at 940 Caledonia Ave.

Regular pool patron and advocate Susan Simmons is frustrated over the decision.

“I think it’s another delay tactic,” Simmons said. “I don’t understand why they need to do this over and over again; it seems to me a really big waste of time and taxpayer money.”

ALSO READ: Victoria council directs staff to reexamine original Crystal Pool designs at previously-explored locations

Simmons has multiple sclerosis (MS) and uses swimming as therapy to combat her symptoms; she also helps train swimmers with varying disabilities. She has been actively involved in advocating for an all-abilities facility with a 50 m pool after witnessing the continual degeneration of the ailing facility.

“If I don’t swim, my disease will progress, ” she said. “The Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre has reached end-of-life and needs replacement; the city was made aware of this 10 years ago.”

Simmons believe the best place to build the new pool would be at its originally-proposed location at the south-west corner of Central Park.

Many members of local neighbourhoods, including the North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA), pushed back against this idea in 2019 citing fears about losing greenspace, something Simmons believes would only be temporary until the old pool is demolished.

ALSO READ: Crystal Pool should serve city’s most vulnerable – North Park Neighbourhood Association

“We’re just asking to have the pool in the park,” Simmons said. “We just need to borrow the greenspace for two years.”

The NPNA, however, along with the Downtown Blanshard Advisory Committee, the neighbourhood association for Hillside-Quadra, and the Victoria Downtown Residents Association support the use of the 940 Caledonia Ave. site.

“This location keeps the facility within our northern neighbourhoods, where there is a great need for recreational and community amenities,” said NPNA Board member Allison Ashcroft in a statement. “Building on a parking lot is a sustainable option that will preserve the magnificent trees and well-used outdoor recreational facilities of Central Park for benefit of the North Park, downtown and Hillside Quadra neighbourhoods.”

ALSO READ: Ocean swim challenge shines spotlight on Crystal Pool plight

The groups say that site is a easily accessible by two major bus routes, that there would be no loss of greenspace, and that it would result in no disruption for users of the Central Park outdoor facilities.

City staff are set to provide the compiled site selection reports, including previously unreleased parking analysis studies, to council on Feb. 6 for further discussion.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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