A new community pool in downtown Prince George, B.C., with a host of accessibility features is being welcomed by people with disabilities and their advocates after it opened to the public on Monday.
The $39-million Canfor Leisure Pool replaces the 50-year-old Four Seasons Leisure Pool, which had several accessibility and safety shortcomings, according to a 2016 Aquatic Needs Assessment Report.
The report cited issues such as poor or non-existent accessibility inside and outside the facility, slippery tiles on all decks, and a lack of accessible and family change room space.
One of the most notable accessibility features in the new building is the inclusion of pool pods that assist people when they're getting into and out of the water.
"It's like a water elevator," city aquatics manager Jim Worthington said on CBC's Daybreak North.
Each remote control-operated pool pod is big enough to contain one of the water wheelchairs that are available to customers, Worthington said. The door opens, people enter, and then the pod drops down into the water.
The accessibility features at Canfor start before customers even enter the building. Out front are four wheelchair-accessible parking spots, there are automatic doors at the entrance and no stairs or steep ramps to contend with.
Inside, coloured strips on the floor help guide visually impaired people to the change rooms, which include a universal room with 16 private change spaces and three for people with disabilities.
The latter "barrier-free" change rooms each have a motorized bed that can be lowered to the floor, a track system to hoist people onto the bed, and showers with fold-up seats.
Even the hot tub is fully accessible, Worthington says.
"It has different water depths so you can wheel with your water wheelchair right into the hot tub," he said.
Excitement for new pool
Prince George resident Troy Lindstrom, an advocate for people with disabilities, said as a person who deals with chronic pain and mobility issues he's excited about using the new pool.
"I love to be in the water. You float around and you feel good," said Lindstrom, who lives with a type of arthritis that fuses the bones in his hands, feet and spine.
"If they have the proper equipment and trained staff — so when a person with a disability does come and they need a little extra help — that is super important because then that person feels that they're part of Prince George. They've been thought of, and they can enjoy the facility as much as everybody else."
Construction on the Canfor Leisure Pool began in June 2020, after residents voted in 2017 to replace the Four Seasons pool.
The pool opens daily at 9 a.m., closing at 8:15 p.m. Monday-Thursday, at 9 p.m. on Friday, and at 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.