A new summer swim schedule and permanent adjustments to lane swimming availability has created waves with some regular patrons of the Sam Ketcham Memorial Pool.
“It will be inconvenient permanently for us,” avid lane swimmer Stuart Westie said of the changes.
“In my mind we should be doing everything we can to encourage lane swimming but we’re doing the opposite and people are leaving.”
According to Westie and several other lane swimmers who contacted the Tribune, changes have been made to the schedule that eliminates all lane swimming access during times when swim lessons are scheduled, which is currently happening between 10 a.m and noon and again from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays.
That schedule is only temporary while children are on summer vacation, however, Westie said swimmers have seen the number of overall lanes also reduced causing overcrowding in the lanes and a general lack of access.
“Anyone who is a weak swimmer just backs away. It’s too congested and it’s intimidating for some.”
Since taking on the role of the city’s new Manager of Active Living manager in January, Stacey Miranda said she admits she does want to try out some new schedules, particularly as the ground breaking date for the extensive pool renovations nears.
“We are playing with the schedule to try things out. Until we try it, how do we know?” Miranda said last week. “Comments are great. That helps me get to know the community and what they want. I have been getting both positive and negative comments about the schedule adjustments.”
Workers are expected to break ground on the pool in the spring of 2016. Construction will last two years. In the meantime, Miranda said she is trying to increase aquatic activities such as swim lessons and other water safety programs to engage children to get the training necessary to become future lifeguards and instructors to help fill the eventual need for trained staff for the larger aquatic centre.
“We are trying to increase the overall use of the aquatic equipment and also our programming,” Miranda said, referring also to increased use of the diving board which cannot be opened while there is a lane in and also inflatable toys such as the iceberg.
Miranda said she is also trying to make some schedule changes to combine similar user groups such as scheduling swim lessons at the same times as the Blue Fins Swim Club, and increasing lane swimming at other times.
For example, Miranda said she increased the number of swim lanes from two to four from 8 to 10 a.m. and has also been able to increase the number of swim lessons offered in a shorter period of time by using the entire pool space during lessons.
Miranda is also considering earlier rental of the pool for parties on Friday and Saturday nights, which are traditionally quiet, and wants to offer more flexibility for private lesson times.
“It’s a community pool and we want to service the entire community, and that requires a little give and take,” she said.
With her new schedule also comes a lot of flexibility, Miranda promises, and encourages anyone who is having issues with the schedule to contact her.
“We are only a phone call away. I encourage anyone who wants to come for lane swimming when it isn’t scheduled to call and see if it’s busy. If it isn’t then we’ll put in a lane — that’s the beauty of flexibility.”
Longtime lane user and senior Jan Greenhough said confusion over lane swim availability has created frustration for her and a lack of pool accessibility.
“I am swimming less these days than I ever have,” Greenhough said.
“It’s infuriating. I don’t think they’re listening. If I knew this was going to happen I never would have voted yes for the new pool. There is no point in paying for a pool that we can’t use.”
A group of lane swimmers is expected to meet with Miranda in the coming weeks to further air their concerns.