On the North Shore, I’m a part of a group of several hundred swimmers who keep in touch, and we all want to know where and when we can swim.
Some of us have chosen to swim together in the open waters of Burrard Inlet.
Recently, I heard someone in my group say “When we left we had 11 swimmers. Now we only have 10.” We quickly spotted the 11th person but then noticed a 12th swimming toward us. Lifeguards, coaches and loved-ones cringe!
The majority of our swimmers are not comfortable with unsupervised open water swimming. They are missing the fitness and social connections that they get while at the pool.
It is said that physical activity among children has dropped by 89% during the pandemic. Pool closures, so far, represent an estimated 300,000 pool visits missed across the North Shore.
Shouldn’t there be more urgency to get these facilities up and running again even at a lower capacity?
Over the past weeks, BC Recreation and Parks Association, BC Life Saving Society and Swim BC have released COVID-19 re-start guidelines that are very specific, comprehensive and aligned with the Public Health Office directives.
To date, private North Shore sports entities like Canlan Ice Sports, North Shore Winter Club and Hollyburn Country Club have embraced the challenge, developed new protocols, communicated them to their users and are implementing them. There are at least two indoor and one outdoor privately-run pools in the Vancouvers that have re-opened under Covid-19.
North Shore public recreation organizations have rightly endorsed a safe and slow approach to re-opening.
The North Shore has no public outdoor pools, but our indoor facilities can easily accommodate the aquatic protocols related to physical distancing, cleaning, proper operation and managing capacities. Pool sizes allow them to accommodate enough swimmers under the new protocols to make it economic to open. Social distancing and cleanliness can be accommodated.
Private operators are using a reservation system to minimize line-ups and help ensure that users have guaranteed access at their chosen time and eliminate the frustration that users have when they arrive at the pool that is overcrowded.
A system like this could improve pool use at all hours even after the pandemic ends.
Aquatics opportunities for residents create economic impacts far beyond the supplies purchased and the salaries paid. This is the kind of progress that is needed across all parts of the economy. Initially one pool could be opened to test the protocols and train staff, then others could be opened quickly.
The lack of recreation and social connections is having an impact on physical and mental health.
If you support an urgent plan to open North Shore public pools, please comment on this article and share it and your concerns with our politicians and administrators listed here.”
Mike Dowling is a master swimmer and a Lynn Valley resident.