Qualicum Beach pool users demand short-term fix

Ravensong closure must be avoided, groups tell commission

User groups of the Ravensong Aquatic Centre pool are pushing for a short-term solution they feel will meet the minimum needs of the community until a multiplex sports development can be built.

The Ravensong Action Group, the Ravensong Waterdancers Synchronized Swimming Club, the Ravensong Aquatic Club and Ravensong Masters Swim Club each appeared as a delegation at the Regional District of Nanaimo’s District 69 Recreation Commission meeting May 17 to express their concerns and share what they want to see done now.

Representatives from each group described what their club is all about and the difficulties they’ve been facing due to lack of space and limited pool times at the aquatic centre. They all had one common request — as a short-term solution to the congestion that now exists at Ravensong, they suggested a new, 25-metre tank be added that would have at least six to eight lanes.

The user groups are also against any plans to add lanes to the existing six-lane pool, as this would result in a temporary closure of the facility.

“This could be detrimental to our club’s existence, based on feedback we’ve received from the Nelson Reflections synchro club,” said Heather Mahony of the Ravensong Waterdancers, which has 36 athletes ages seven years to adult. Mahony said the Nelson club’s facility was closed for a year, “and after four years from the closure they are still working to build their membership back to previous levels.”

Tom Manson of the Ravensong Masters Swim Club, whose members range from late teens to more than 80 years old, shared the same sentiment about the adverse affect of closing the pool.

“We believe that merely expanding the current pool by a few lanes would not result in any significant opportunities to expand and improve our club,” said Manson. “An extended closure of the pool for renovations would be detrimental to the club and members in both short and long terms. During the last extended closure for repairs, some members commuted to Nanaimo to keep swimming. Many members did not return to the club after that closure.”

Ann McVey of the Ravensong Action Group also indicated that proposed upgrade options suggested in the District 69 Recreation Services Master Plan would be a total waste of tax payers’ money. She pointed out it will not solve the overcrowding, the need for more lanes for length swimmers and the need for a much larger women’s change room, which she added was not designed for as many as 70 women using it at the same time.

“A second tank could meet the minimum needs of the community for a number of years,” McVey told the commission “We know that people who consider moving to a new community want to know the availability of facilities and services, including the area’s recreational options.”

The commission appreciated the presentation of the groups. While most of the members agreed with the group’s proposal to add a 25-metre tank, Elaine Young, who represents the School District 69, still wants the commission to look at the prospect of building new multi-sport facility now.

“We need to be not looking at today, we need to be projecting 10 years into the future,” said Young, who is also a length swimmer at Ravensong.

Kim Burden of the City of Parksville raised the issue of finding a suitable location and purchasing a property for the future multi-sport facility. He added that they have to come up with a plan that is financially affordable and central to the public.

“It should meet the pool needs to the degree we can, not to the degree we want to… to the degree that we financially feasibly can and have public support,” Burden said.

The commission was directed by the RDN board to consider the infrastructure projects identified in the Recreation Services Master Plan for District 69. They include construction and operation of a rubberized athletic training track at Ballenas Secondary, an artificial turf field and the expansion of Ravensong Aquatic Centre.

The commission passed a motion to work with RDN staff and consultants to formulate a revised recreation facility development strategy for three top priority items that include:

• Minimum Ravensong pool upgrade to address critical current user concerns and define a low-cost recommendation to move forward quickly with a referendum to proceed;

• Minimum cost replacement of the old track at Ballenas Secondary School and a proposal for an eight-lane rubberized track and field facility at a future location;

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