Residents of a small community in northeastern B.C. feel they're getting the shallow end of the deal as they are crowded out by visitors flocking to town to enjoy one of the region's few pools still running during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The outdoor pool in the District of Hudson's Hope, B.C., is already a popular attraction in the summer months, bringing in swimmers from neighbouring communities including Chetwynd and Fort St. John, each approximately an hour's drive away.
And this year, after pools in those communities closed due to COVID-19, the number of people driving to town for a swim skyrocketed, leading to long lines and frustrated residents unable to get in.
"A lot of locals have just given up even trying," said Justin Gammie, an avid swimmer who lives a short walk away from the pool. "It's such a long time to wait out in the sun with your children."
Under normal circumstances, the pool has a capacity of 125 and often fills up on weekends and holidays, Gammie said. But now capacity has been reduced to 25 people for safety reasons, and long lines are in place every day.
After enduring a 45-minute wait to take his children for a half-hour swim, Gammie decided something had to change. He started a petition and wrote a letter to council asking for locals-only swim times or to start charging visitors a higher rate to get in.
"I think it's fair, because our property taxes are what's paying for the pool right now, so it makes sense for us to have some sort of an edge," Gammie said.
Hudons' Hope mayor Dave Heiberg said council has discussed the complaints but, with the pool only open for a few more weeks, no changes will be made this year. Instead, they've asked the pool's staff to come up with recommendations to make things run more smoothly in 2021.
In the meantime, Gammie's petition has attracted attention in both Hudson's Hope and neighbouring communities. He said while most of the feedback has been positive, some people in Fort St. John — a city of approximately 20,000 which acts as a service centre for Hudson's Hope's roughly 1,000 residents — are upset by it.
"They say maybe we should start charging more for Hudson's Hope to use our facilities," he said. "And I understand why they're saying that, but I don't think they're facing the same problem Hudson's Hope is, being such a small town and having such small limits on their pool."
Fort St. John plans to reopen its indoor pool in mid-September and Chetwynd recently reopened its pool, decreasing the demand on Hudson's Hope's swim spot.
Gammie, however, said his family has no plans to wait in line again this summer.
"We'll just enjoy the local lakes and hope for the best next year," he said.