Park vs. pool: Vancouver neighbourhood still plunged in debate over outdoor pool

·4 min read
The Vancouver Park Board voted to re-allocate $11.5 million from the city's 2023-26 Capital Plan to support the development of an outdoor pool in Mount Pleasant Park, but city council refused to spend any money on the project. (CBC - image credit)
The Vancouver Park Board voted to re-allocate $11.5 million from the city's 2023-26 Capital Plan to support the development of an outdoor pool in Mount Pleasant Park, but city council refused to spend any money on the project. (CBC - image credit)

Plans for an outdoor pool in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant Park continues to be plunged in controversy, 13 years after it was removed.

Those with fond memories of the pool say they want it back, citing the need for swimming lessons and a lack of similar facilities in Vancouver.

In 2009, after operating for more than 40 years, the pool was closed and filled to make way for an enlarged playground, basketball court, skate park, community garden and parking lot.

In late June, the Vancouver Park Board voted to re-allocate $11.5 million of the $539 million budget in the 2023-2026 Capital Plan — the city's plan for investments in infrastructure and amenities — to the planning and building of a new outdoor pool at Mount Pleasant Park, and asked city council to agree to fund the remaining costs.

The following day, council voted against any spending on the project.

"I was quite surprised," said park board commissioner John Coupar. "I don't know the reason for it because some of the council members had been supportive of it before."

The board has passed several resolutions over the past decade to build a new pool but the project never got started, said Margery Duda, chair of Mount Pleasant community centre's pool committee, on CBC's On the Coast.

Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation/ Submitted
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation/ Submitted

There are five outdoor pools in Vancouver: Kitsilano Pool, Second Beach Pool in Stanley Park, New Brighton Pool in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood, Maple Grove Pool in Kerrisdale and the Hillcrest Aquatic Centre pool near Queen Elizabeth Park.

Duda said more outdoor pools are needed.

"Surrey, B.C., has eight [outdoor] pools," she said.

"Having an outdoor pool in a very popular community park, in a neighbourhood that is densely populated and close to all kinds of transit, is a great idea," she said.

The closure of Kitsilano Pool in January 2022, when a wind storm caused extensive damage to the facility, added to the pressure for outdoor pool space. To offset the closure, the park board extended hours and added lifeguards at the Second Beach and New Brighton pools.

Cost could reach $20M

Rebuilding Mount Pleasant pool is estimated to cost between $12 million and $15 million, according to Coupar, although the total cost could go up to $20 million.

"I've heard from the community across the city that they really miss the outdoor pools," Coupar told CBC News.

"It was promised to come back and it just never came back. Other budget priorities got in the way."

Coun. Sarah Kirby Yung says council voted 10-1 against funding the Mount Pleasant pool project after residents expressed concern about preserving green space.

"We're hearing as the city gets more dense ... how important that green space is for livability. It's not just a large area there. We heard that the majority of the community really wants to keep it as park access," she said.


Community divided

Proposals to rebuild the pool have divided residents.

"It's important for children to learn how to swim when you're in a coastal community. Most of us learned to swim in these pools as kids, including myself," Coupar said.

Coupar, who is running for mayor this fall, said the majority of the park board commissioners have been adamant about building an outdoor pool at Mount Pleasant Park and will look toward federal or provincial funding to help make the project happen.

"Generally, when we have shovel plans ready and there's money available from the feds or the province, we'll be able to apply for it under various programs," he said.


But an online petition that has garnered hundreds of signatures argues the park isn't the right location for a pool.

"We have a small house so we don't have yard space, so we use the park on weekends," said Mount Pleasant resident Joleen Timko.

"We know that the people who sign the petition really do use the space. They value it so highly and they don't want to see it replaced with a pool."


Timko said the city needs to recognize "the importance of green spaces" amid increasing densification.

"This isn't really a solution to climate change," Timko said. "You are replacing trees, which sequester carbon, for something like concrete."

Coupar said previous consultations and design plans for the pool have taken into consideration the green space at the park.

"There's lots of green space in that park and I'm committed to building that pool," he said.

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