Victorians host ocean swim in appeal for Crystal Pool replacement
VICTORIA -- A Victoria ultra-marathon swimmer challenged Victoria’s mayor and council to take a swim in the ocean over the weekend so they could feel what it would be like if the city's Crystal Pool doesn’t get repaired or rebuilt.
Susan Simmons, who has multiple sclerosis, uses Crystal Pool to coach Special Olympics athletes and also train for her own competitions.
On Sunday, Simmons was disappointed to see that no councillors or the mayor showed up to swim or meet with community members at Ogden Point.
“It is kind of reflective of how their feelings are towards the pool,” said Simmons. “This was an opportunity to meet the community and talk with them.”
Simmons said that the existing pool facility could break down at any point and a new facility needs to be built with a 50-metre lane, and not a proposed 25-metre one.
“Crystal Pool is the people’s pool, this is really about community health," said Simmons. "People go there for both mental and physical wellness and not having that facility leaves a lot of people in our community at risk."
Mayor Lisa Helps told CTV News that she thinks it is great to see people advancing their causes in creative ways.
“The pool is a priority for council,” said Helps. “This takes time.”
Helps added that the city needs to go to referendum to borrow money to build the pool.
“We have to take the time to get a project together that at least 51 per cent of eligible votes, and hopefully more, will support,” she said.
The ocean was a chilly 6 degrees, but a large group of people took the plunge and braved the water with Simmons to prove their point.
“My daughter uses the pool for her Special Olympics,” said swimmer Vince Gisler.
He said this issue is not going to go away and that Crystal Pool is dying through neglect.
Karmen McNamara, who is a council candidate, was at the swim on Sunday and said the time to act is now.
“If we want to build an equitable community and we want to have a truly inclusive community, building the new Crystal Pool is something we need to do,” said McNamara.
The City of Victoria has been talking about replacing Crystal Pool since 2011. Since then, many different iterations of what the facility could look like have appeared but failed to gain traction.
In February 2018, the city had secured $6-million in funding from the Union of BC Municipalities to go towards replacing the pool. However, the funding was contingent on the city moving forward with the project by March 31, 2019, which it failed to do. The city is able to apply for funding again in the future.