The fight to keep Scona Pool open in Old Strathcona will soon be over, after 12 years of fighting between community members and the City of Edmonton.
The city is permanently closing the pool on October 3.
The city council voted in late August to unplug the 65-year-old facility, after hearing from the administration that the structural flaws would cost at least $6 million to repair.
The city released an assessment of the condition of the buildings report on its website last weekfollowing an investigation carried out on the exterior and interior areas of the building in July, showing that the heating installation and the heat exchanger had stopped working.
Most of the blocking bricks outside have been fenced off from public access, the report says, but consultants recommended that the entrance also be blocked off for security reasons.
Seniors left behind
Elaine Solez, president of community group Friends of Scona Rec, said closing the pool would leave some behind.
“There are older people with mobility issues who don’t feel able to go to another pool, they don’t drive much anymore,” she said. “They feel their swimming days are over and it’s very sad to hear things like that.”
Norm Shandro, now 80, had been swimming three to five times a week for 15 years and thinks the city shutdown is bad planning.
“I’m very unhappy with it being closed without having some sort of replacement,” he said.
The city suggested three alternatives: Kinsmen Sports, Bonnie Doon Recreation Center, and Confederation Recreation Center, all within a 15-minute drive of Scona, requiring a vehicle for most access.
“It’s not a replacement at all,” he said. “Get more people on the roads, that’s all he does.”
Strathcona High School swimmers joined in the most recent call to keep the pool open when they spoke to the board during an executive meeting at City Hall on Aug. 24.
Kirby Feng, a volunteer coach with the Scona swim team for 24 years, said the town provides alternative training space at the Kinsmen Sports Center, which is about 3.5 kilometers away, meaning it will take about 10 minutes by car or 20 -minute by bus from the school.
He and the swim captains are trying to arrange carpool options for kids who can’t afford to get there.
“I hope that even with the difficulty of now having an extra layer of travel and time, these kids will still want to be on the Scona swim team,” Feng said. “I think the swim team is bigger than any person, any facility.”
Rollie Miles in front
Community residents had been lobbying the city to keep the pool open since 2009.
Julie Kusiek, a former member of the Queen Alexandra community league, president of Friends of Scona Rec and mother of four, said residents have presented their case to city councils for the past 12 years.
Kusiek, now a trustee of the Edmonton Public School Board, said a lot of community power went into saving the Scona pool and then later pushing for a replacement – the Rollie Miles Recreation Center .
“So how are we going to keep this heart alive and these connections alive until Rollie Miles is built?” she told CBC News on Friday.
“We hope the council understands this and knows there is a huge void here and needs to be built on as soon as possible.”
The city has approved funds for the preliminary design of the envisioned Rollie Miles Recreation Center, but the facility needs capital investment.
Defenders like Solez are now looking to the next facility.
“My goal is to continue to lobby for the new recreation center and encourage others to join in this effort,” Solez said.
She hopes that this fall the city will come up with a capital budget to move the Rollie Miles project forward.
“We’re trying to keep that front and center so it doesn’t fall on the back burner and be ignored for years and years,” Solez said.