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COVID-19 hampers effort to find solutions for the Inglewood pool

Facility closures tied to COVID-19 haven’t made it any easier for the struggling Inglewood pool, clinging to life thanks to community support.

The city’s Community and Protective Services committee will receive an update Wednesday, and in their report it shows work on both the Inglewood and Beltline pool work was paused.

In November 2019 budget discussions, interim funding was awarded to keep the pools open while further plans on programming, pricing and flexible hours was determined. Several community members spoke passionately about the pool at those budget meetings.

The pools each require $600,000 in annual operating cost. They’re scheduled to stay open until Dec. 31, 2021.

After this decision, the community launched a use-it-or-lose-it campaign to drive further community support for the location.

“We’re trying to get community members out to increase those participation rates at that pool specifically in order to show the City of Calgary that even though Inglewood is small and doesn’t meet the required population to have a larger facility, our residents are active users of the pool and shouldn’t be left out because of the geographic size of our neighbourhood,” said Naomi Withers, Inglewood Community Association communications director, in a Feb. 20, 2020 LiveWire Calgary story.

Then COVID-19 hit. Recreation centres were closed three weeks later, on March 15. The city’s only opened some – when allowed – based on demand and potential COVID-19 spread.

“We had sort of reached this, “OK, you want this to remain, you’ve got to use it or lose it – then COVID struck and no one’s using it,” said Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.

“What we’ve done is we’ve pivoted from the short term, use-it-or-lose-it conversation to more of a medium and long term.”

Exploration of options

The administration report outlines four areas they investigated.

It showed that while there were service gaps (water slide, zero-entry pool, wave pool, etc) in the area, this couldn’t necessarily be added to either the Beltline or Inglewood pools. And, as has been stated before, the primary services (lane swimming, lessons and classes) could be done at nearby facilities.

The report also showed little response to a request for information on shifting to a partner-operated model.

They also collected substantial data from more than 850 area residents. They’ll use this information to create further plans for recreation and to test ideas.

That’s where the medium- and long-term planning comes in, said Coun. Carra.

“I think we all understand that the pool is sitting on a very small piece of land that is not owned by the City of Calgary. And so, the ultimate solution is probably for a pool not to be there in the long term. And I think everyone knew that,” said Carra.

“So the question is, if pools not there, what recreation opportunities in the community should replace it?”

The public engagement has been good and thoughtful, Carra said.

“The question is, how long will it be a pool and COVID has sort of really smashed that,” he said.

One aspect that was brought up in the city report was the prospect of working with Matco Developments. They’re moving forward on the development of the adjacent brewery lands.

Early stages of planning

Eileen Stan, VP of Development with Matco, confirmed they’re taking initial steps to look at land use planning for the area. They refer to it as the Brewery-Rail lands.

They own the brewery lands and an additional 20 acres to the west of the brewery area.

She said with ongoing work on Calgary’s Green Line it makes sense for them to chart their course for development. There will be a station near the proposed Inglewood Ramsay station.

“It’s appropriate timing to look at what the future redevelopment of that area would look like, considering the major public infrastructure investments that have been made in Inglewood,” Stan told LiveWire Calgary.

Stan said along with other public realm improvements that are still needed in the area, recreation is one of them. As the area transitions from industrial to mixed-use residential, people will want to be active.

She noted the pathway system in the area, the recent upgrades to Harvie Passage and the area lawn bowling facility as welcome improvements.

So – where does the Inglewood pool fit in?

Stan said that remains to be seen.

“What we really need to do is get a better understanding of what is in this recreation report and how people are using the community facilities that are there,” she said.

“And then looking at future redevelopment, whatever form that might take.”

Before any decision is made, Stan said the city must decide on the Inglewood pool’s future.

Coun. Carra said the city has an interest in the pool, but also in future area recreation. How those two overlap with the brewery development is a future discussion, he said.  

Adminstration recommends continuing on the current course with a final report scheduled for Q2 in 2021.