Less than 500 metres from Central Park, where design plans tentatively place the new Crystal Pool, lives regular user Karmen McNamara.
McNamara, who has previously competed for Team Canada, wrote an open letter to the City of Victoria’s new council on Nov. 12, urging them to reconsider the on-again-off-again design plans for the public recreation facility near the city centre.
“[C]losing the facility for any length of time would be devastating for the community that depends on it,” McNamara wrote, adding that the most vulnerable community members would be affected the most.
In 2016, design consultations to upgrade the facility included more than 4,400 people such as those who live nearby, community groups and people with disabilities.
The outcome was a plan to build a new facility in Central Park, next to the current Crystal Pool. It would mean the building would not have to close during construction — a timeframe estimated at two years or more.
In a council meeting in early October, Mayor Lisa Helps directed city staff to reconsider the location of the new facility, after hearing that North Park residents were not adequately consulted.
McNamara said people living in North Park were consulted, and 80 per cent of people who responded to a survey about the low-barrier design were in favour of it. In her letter, she said the current design is good not only for its physical accessibility, but its financial accessibility.
“The facility, with its Life Passes for low-income residents, means the difference between access to recreation and a lack of access for many at-risk people. Additionally, the facility is home to the Special Olympics swim team,” McNamara wrote.
The athlete is familiar with the positive impact of such access through her volunteer work at the pool, as well as with Cool Aid and the Special Olympics swim team.
She noted that studies have shown how recreation makes communities healthy by reducing depression, anxiety and obesity levels, and by helping people with mental illness.
“This current design meets the needs of the greatest number of people, and reflects the needs of a growing, healthy, community,” she wrote. “In sum, I urge the Mayor and Council to continue with plans for a new facility that will not involve an extended closure. I ask you to please consider the importance of access to the facility for low-income and marginalized residents when making your decisions.”
McNamara’s open letter can be read on her website at www.karmenmcnamara.ca.