By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
People in Coaldale will be able to cool off in the community pool, tot lot and spray park this summer, but the town is warning that it won’t be open on the same terms.
Pools were originally suppose to open in Phase three of the provincial relaunch strategy. Although Coaldale town council had originally voted to keep the pool closed in a split vote during their regular June 8 meeting, the next day the province announced the launch phase two early, and with it they included some things that were originally slated to open in phase three, prompted the town to revisit their decision in a special June 11 council meeting, where they decided to open the pool for the summer.
Council had passed a motion in a split 5-1 vote to direct that swimming lessons are not offered in 2020 due to physical distancing issues and the lack of capacity; approve a general schedule for the pool, understanding that administration may adjust it as deemed necessary; direct administration to endeavor to open the pool by Monday, June 29, recognizing however that there is significant uncertainty that could delay this planned opening date; recognize that due to COVID-19 related restrictions and in order to maintain reasonable limits on maximum facility capacity, drop in use of the pool will not be permitted;approve the opening of the spray park for June 29, 2020 provided AHS approval is received; and allow administration time to further explore options regarding options for managing the large number of patrons who will potentially want to use the Tot Lot to ensure proper physical distancing inside and outside the wading pool and to also prepare the proper disinfecting protocols that will be required.
Council also passed a motion in a split 5-1 vote to direct administration to come back with a flat per use fee suggestion after considering budgetary concerns. Coun. Henry ‘Butch’Pauls was absent from the meeting, and Coun. Jacen Abrey voted against both motions.
Although the pool will be open, it will be operating under a different set of rules than normal, due to the pandemic, and users are asked to stay vigilant and practice social distancing when using these facilities. Due to these restrictions, swimming lessons will not be offered at the pool this year.
“Unfortunately we won’t be able to do lessons this season,” said Cam Mills, manager of economic and community development for the town. “Like any other business, we have to abide by the province’s rules or risk getting shut down; because of that if we did offer lessons, we wouldn’t be able to provide them for younger kids or weaker swimmers, as the instructors would need to be two meters away, and we would also only be able to do four kids in the pool at a time.”
“Given that we’ve got to limit public swims to 40 at a time, down from 150 or so, it just doesn’t make sense to close up the whole pool to do lessons for four kids who are already at the point of not needing an instructor nearby anyway. It’s unfortunate, we know how much people value the lessons, but it just doesn’t make sense given the rules we’re working with,” said Mills.
Pool-users will have to book slots for swimming in advance, either online or by phone.
Each time block will allow for a maximum of 40 people using the pool, and new procedures will be put in place for disinfecting and maintaining social distancing.
A cheaper, flat rate price will be introduced for using the pool, and season passes will not be available. Drop-in users will not be accepted.
A 30-minute period between swimming time slots will be used to clear the area of users and to disinfect toilets, sinks, remove garbage, restock supplies, and disinfect all touch points in and around the pool, and will be reflected in an adjusted hours of operation schedule.
Pool toys and noodles will not be permitted for use at the pool.
The use of changing rooms and lockers cannot be accommodated, and the town asks that users arrive at the pool already dressed.
“We expect there to be some confusion, and likely some people will feel that the regulations are too restrictive, but like for lessons, as the municipality we aren’t in a position to make those rules, just like anyone else it’s our responsibility to comply with the provincial guidelines as best as we can.”
The tot lot can accommodate up to six people at a time to help ensure physical distancing can be maintained, and town administration is looking into options to help ensure proper distancing takes place and preparing proper disinfecting protocols.
For the spray park, the town does not currently anticipate significant challenges with opening and operating it, providing AHS give its approval.
Town administration also cautions that while the plan is for the pool to open on June 29, depending on direction from the province, this may change. Alberta Health services also reserves the right to shut down any of the facilities if users are not adhering to the physical distancing guidelines.
“The province’s decision to move pools from stage three to stage two of the relaunch came as a surprise, but it does give us the opportunity to get the pool open and operating for the majority of the season, which is exciting,” said Mills.
“Like any other facility, we’ve got to comply with the province’s regulations as part of the effort to continue to contain COVID-19; if the province changes course and decides to move back to stricter regulations, then we will have to comply with that decision. Like everyone else we’re hopeful that those types of steps won’t be required and that the facility will be able to stay open to the public for the balance of the summer.” More information will be made available in the following weeks.