'You feel like you're forgotten': Moncton neighbourhood wonders what happened to promise of pool

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'You feel like you're forgotten': Moncton neighbourhood wonders what happened to promise of pool

'You feel like you're forgotten': Moncton neighbourhood wonders what happened to promise of pool

People in Moncton's east end wonder if city council has forgotten a commitment to repair or replace the outdoor pool next to the youth centre, which used to stand in as a beach for residents who couldn't afford visits to the shore. 

Pikey French, director of the Moncton East Youth Centre, said people recently found out about the city's plans to build a $3.5 million pool at Centennial Park, in the west end, and they were "very, very upset."

Ever since council voted unanimously in 2014 to replace the east end pool, which was closed in 2013 because of maintenance problems, people in her disadvantaged neighbourhood, have been anxiously waiting for it to reopen. 

Councillors "seem to be forgetting, number one, that they have an obligation," French said.

"I mean you make a commitment — you follow through. We've been waiting since 2013 and all of a sudden now Centennial is a priority? You feel like you're forgotten."

'This is their beach'

Moncton Centre MLA Chris Collins is also concerned and said it's crucial for youth in the area to have a place to go in the summer months.

"This area is a demographic where a lot of these kids don't have cottages to go to," he said. "They don't have the means to go on nice vacations or go to the beach every day. This is their beach.

"It needs to be protected."

The city-operated pool is next to the youth centre in the east end, a part of the city that includes the Sunny Brae and Elmwood areas and is home to a lot of low-income families and tenants of public housing.

French said people have been trying since last September to find out when the pool will be replaced or repaired.

"We thought that this would be the spring that they would be starting to work on it because they're repairing the roadways down here ... and then we found this out in February on social media ... I said 'Whoa — what happened here?'"

Without a place to go in the summer months, French said, young people are "wandering the streets" all summer instead of spending the day at the community centre and the pool with staff who can provide a safe place and support.

"Maybe they just needed a meal, maybe they needed a Band-Aid — who knows what they needed — but it was here," she said.

"To lose that and you're losing your most vulnerable age group because you're losing the 10 to the 18-year-olds and they're the most at risk. So when we had them here we could keep track of them."

No decision yet on east end pool

Both Collins and French point to the $104-million downtown event centre as a place where Moncton city council could find any extra money required so the east end pool can move ahead.

On Monday, council approved $4.3 million for the plaza outside the downtown centre, which is more than twice the amount originally budgeted.

"They could re-budget some of the money from the plaza for example," Collins said. "I mean this was promised to the kids. It's pretty hard to tell these kids that this isn't going to happen now."

French said millions of dollars has been pumped into Centennial Park over the past 10 years.

"The rest of the city is being forgotten ... it's frustrating, very frustrating."

In an email statement city hall spokesperson Isabelle LeBlanc said the Centennial Park pool and the east end pool are "two distinct projects."

"There has been no public decision by council regarding the east end pool," LeBlanc wrote.

"The last directive received by council was that staff needed to bring forward a report that would evaluate what the $1 million budgeted ... could build in that location."

She said the current pool at Centennial Park, which will be replaced, serves the entire city and sees 25,000 visitors of all ages every summer.

Collins said suggesting children from the east end could walk to Centennial Park is not realistic.

"It's difficult for them to get to Centennial Park without using the buses and I don't see a seven-year-old using a bus and getting a transfer at Highfield Square and going up to Centennial."