A Victoria resident and council candidate is bringing a petition to council asking for the immediate construction of a new Crystal Pool facility.
Karmen McNamara believes the city should go back to its originally-approved designs and location, which saw the new facility placed at the south west corner of Central Park. So far her petition has gathered nearly 900 signatures both online and in hard copy.
The original design was widely supported, McNamara argues, citing an 80 per cent approval rating in an earlier only city survey. However, a report put forward by the North Park Neighbourhood Association asking for the maintenance of greenspace in 2018 prompted the city to explore other locations and designs, a move that lost the city millions of dollars worth of funding and resulted in no new decisions.
“They investigated a number of different sites and came up empty-handed because there are no viable places in the City of Victoria,” McNamara said. “Now we’re spending roughly $100,000 per month maintaining the current Crystal Pool.”
According to a recent city staff report, from 2017 to 2018 operations costs at the pool increased by 17 per cent due to the aging infrastructure. City staff have also previously predicted that construction cost estimates will increase by approximately $500,000 per month for a new facility.
The financial cost is one thing, McNamara adds, but the social consequences are another. McNamara works as a staff manager for a person living with special needs who has ties to the Paralympics. Her client uses Crystal Pool every week to train, and has to access the facility by taking a steep backdoor ramp and ringing a doorbell so that he can be let into the accessible change room. The accessibility of the facility is terrible, she said, but it’s all that’s around. If the pool closes for maintenance there’s nowhere else to go within the city.
“People who are privileged can get into a car and drive to another facility, but if your financially or physically limited you can’t go anywhere else, it’s just not an option.”
McNamara has spoken to council last year on the issue, but hopes that this time with more voices behind hers her message will resonate.
“This pool is important for the entire community not because it’s necessarily a pool , but it’s a place where people can come together and have relationships,” she said. “If we put shovels in the ground tomorrow it will take three years to build… we cannot guarantee that the facility will be running for the next two years.”
McNamara will be speaking at council around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evening.