'Let's stop stalling': Vancouver neighbourhood to get long-awaited outdoor pool

An outdoor pool promised for more than a decade is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The issue was heavily discussed during Monday night’s Vancouver Park Board meeting as commissioners considered the upcoming capital budget.

Originally, the Mount Pleasant outdoor pool was not part of the proposed 2023-26 capital plan, but that changed by the end of the four-hour-long meeting.

The previous outdoor pool was shut down in 2009 after operating for 44 years. Residents were promised a new pool, but years later, it still hasn't been built.

Between 2010 to 2021, the board passed several resolutions to build a new pool but the project never went ahead.

“We’ve been fighting for this to be replaced for years. It’s been a long struggle,” said speaker Helen Fielding, a former lifeguard and swimming instructor who wants a neighbourhood pool for her grandchildren.

According to staff reports, a new pool would cost between $15 million and 20 million.

“It’s relatively a small amount…it’s 0.57 per cent of the total city capital plan, 3.5 per cent of the total park board capital budget, ” said Anita Romaniuk, a former park board commissioner who was speaking on behalf of with the Mount Pleasant Community Centre Association.

The pool was clearly a contentious issue as several speakers voiced their strong opposition, citing concerns that green space would be taken away, beliefs the money could be used to fund other projects and concerns about traffic congestion.

“It’s heartbreaking to imagine this beautiful park have this concrete whatever design, that’s not going to be used for most of the year, be a giant eyesore,” said Patrick Crossmen, a resident in the neighbourhood.

During public engagement, 35 people were opposed while 29 people supported it.

After hearing from the speakers, the Commissioner John Irwin added an amendment to explore reallocating $11.5 million of the funds in the capital plan to facilitate the planning, design and building of the Mount Pleasant pool. It passed 5:2.

“It’s time for us to stop saying, ‘Just be patient.’ Let’s stop stalling, let’s finally do it,” said Commissioner Tricia Barker.

On the topic of pools, Commissioner Dave Demers also added an amendment to request council for additional funding to complete the outdoor pool for Marpole Community Centre. That amendment passed unanimously.

Another issue brought up is that funding was diminished from the sports field strategy, which saw about $11 million allocated in the past capital budget and dropped to $3.8 million in the upcoming budget.

After hearing from coaches, volunteers and young soccer players, the board voted unanimously to request city council find $7.7 million in funding to build, upgrade and expand outdoor sports field facilities.

In the four-year capital plan, $208 million will go towards funding parks and open spaces, $329 million is dedicated to recreation facilities and $2 million is earmarked for service yards, for a total of $539 million.

The plan now goes to council for approval.