After a long look at options, replacement for Crystal Pool might come full circle

A replacement for Crystal Pool should be located in the Hillside-Quadra area or in North Park to best serve the most vulnerable in the city, say North Park residents.

But that might mean Victoria council once again looks at building the new pool in Central Park, adjacent to the existing pool, says Coun. Geoff Young.

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“If it turns out that there is no nearby site that is viable, I think a lot of people would say: ‘Go ahead with the original plan,’ ” Young said. “There would be no net loss of green space in Central Park, because when we build the new pool, we’ll demolish the old one and we’d be in the same situation we actually were, except with a far better pool.”

This week, Victoria councillors will once again look at where to build a Crystal Pool replacement.

The city started looking for a new pool site — after spending $2 million on designing a replacement pool in Central Park — when concerns were raised about loss of green space and the impact of parking on surrounding streets.

Unable to reach an agreement with RG Properties to locate the new facility on the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre parking lot across Quadra Street, city staff began touting the Central Middle School playing fields as a possible location.

That suggestion alarmed some North Park residents, who made a special presentation to last week’s council committee of the whole, arguing all future infrastructure investments, including location of a Crystal replacement, should be done through “an equity lens.”

That would mean locating a pool and wellness facility close to people who need it most.

The group recommended that the facility be located where it’s convenient to the greatest number of people and the most under-served, as well as near transit, cycling and walking routes.

They noted that the vast majority of the lowest-income people in Victoria live on the north end of downtown, in North Park and in the Hillside-Quadra area. Nearly a quarter of the 2,000 adults residing downtown and in North Park live in poverty, with similar numbers in Hillside-Quadra. Poorer neighbourhoods are also generally park-deficient, so facilities shouldn’t be built on green space, the North Park residents said.

Noting the residents did not suggest a specific site, Young said council should continue to consider Central Park.

“There are residents of the area who feel that having a pool there is more important than recovering the open space from the existing pool,” he said.

Young said there are not many other feasible, available sites within North Park or Quadra-Hillside.

Coun. Ben Isitt said a return to Central Park for the new pool is unlikely, unless it’s built on the existing pool site.

“It’s an inner-city park and the amenities are highly valued by the residents in terms of the basketball court, the tree canopy and the playground,” Isitt said.

“For me, the only appropriate building site in Central Park is the location of the current pool, and what I’ve heard from pool users is they don’t want to see a two-year pool shutdown of the facility during a construction process.”

Isitt said his preferred location would be the Royal Athletic Park parking lot. Mayor Lisa Helps said that site has some potential for a pool facility, but is probably better suited to housing.

“But I think we’re headed back to the north end of the city,” she said, noting the North Park residents presented some powerful arguments for locating the pool north of Pandora Avenue.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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