A message for those of you in mature neighbourhoods, attendees, or alumni of Strathcona High School or the surrounding schools:
It looks like Scona Pool is proposed again for closure. Eastglen, Scona and Oliver pools as well as Oliver and Tipton arenas have been recommended for closure, which would save the city $1.4 million in operating expenses this budget cycle. As the Trustee for Strathcona High School and Ward F (the central area Edmonton communities), I’ve witnessed the pool's contributions to Strathcona High School, and to schools and central communities (Parkallen Community League launched a petition in support of the pool which you can see here). Strathcona High School administration have reiterated the benefit of the pool, and I have heard from leaders really creative ideas and a willingness to help keep the pool open until one day a new facility is opened.
CALL TO ACTION: For those of you available on Monday, the Queen Alex Community League has coordinated a special 1 hour conversation about the Scona Pool & Tipton Arena. There will be more information provided about how to make your voice heard, volunteer, and support your community. RSVP here to get the Zoom link.
Please make your voice heard by filling out this quick survey
. We want to know how you feel about the proposed closures.
We need creative solutions not city core facilities closures.
Up until the closure with COVID in March 2020, the facility was reportedly quite busy, regularly booked up each evening until 10PM closure. Swimming lessons, rentals, and an award-winning swim team, ensured the facility was well-used. Another unique aspect of the pool is the special private bookings for special needs learners and children with disabilities who have benefited from the privacy.
While the usership or costs per swim may be less efficient than other mega-facilities, I believe that lens is too narrow. By that same logic, Strathcona Library branch could be merged into Whitemud, schools into mega-schools, and soon we have hollowed out our mature neighbourhoods in the name of budgets and efficiency— this is not a strategy I support, nor is it good urban planning.
Repairs and renewal often are more affordable than demolition or future replacement. As a community leader reminded me, “once you close it, you never get it back.” Not only that, but you lose future leverage, users, and advocacy for upgrades to a new recreation centre, such as the proposed Rollie Miles complex. The operating costs for the pool are negligible (~$226,000 per year), but the opportunities for a longer-term revitalization and mini-core rec facility are much stronger while the pool remains open— even for another decade.
I know that city administration is also struggling to balance their budget and are facing a $172 million hole. I support the proposed 0% tax increase, and I am certainly am sympathetic to the incredibly difficult situation the mayor and councillors are in. At the same time, we still need a city that welcomes all of us to learn, live, laugh, and play — and recreation centres are a key component. Considering the very small operating cost for Scona pool, are there not opportunities to find these cost savings through reallocations elsewhere?
Revitalizing core neighbourhoods:
The city has just passed a brand new City Plan
with the ambition of "15-minute communities" where we can "Live Local" and do more activities closer to home. As we are revitalizing mature neighbourhoods and bringing more families into the core, it is crucial that we have access to amenities and are not stuck having to drive further and further away. As we try to add another million people to Edmonton, many within mature neighbourhoods, preserving local recreation libraries, schools, and recreation are a key component of improving our livability.
In the longer term, we need a commitment to replace Scona Pool with a new Rollie Miles Recreation Center that could help attract and retain more families, bring vibrancy, reduce carbon emissions, and help keep schools open. I believe that the future of recreation in our city is smaller, micro-recreation opportunities (like Rollie Miles), not massive mega-recreation complexes. It might take a number of years for us to get there, but even getting our foot in the door for design funding now would allow us to build the case for investment, secure partners and marshall community members in support of local community recreation.
What do you think? How can we attract more vibrancy, investment, and support for the core of our city?