Pool restrictions make waves

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Tom Summer Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
The Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) supports the creation of original civic journalism. Tom Summer works under the Alaska Highway News in Fort St. John. The content that is produced will be made available to media organizations through a Creative Commons license so that Canadians can be better informed.

The District of Hudson’s Hope is taking heat after an online petition surfaced over the long weekend calling for residents to have priority access to the local pool.

The pool opened on July 6 after several delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. But petitioners say they are being crowded out by non-local swimmers, and facing waits up to an hour to use the pool under new rules in place for its use.

“It seems very unfair that the people who foot the bill for the pool, are so often the ones unable to use it. Many locals have given up on swimming at the pool and lately it is not unlikely to be the only local in the pool,” reads the petition, started by Justin Gammie and signed by 128 people so far. “Standing outside for 45 minutes near the front of the line just to be turned away is frustrating, as well as disheartening for the children involved.”

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The pool is a popular summer spot and currently limited to 25 swimmers at a time under COVID restrictions. Access remains on a first come first serve basis, with swimmers required to leave when the pool is cleaned every hour. Each entry counts as an individual swim.

“If we have already used the swimming pool, even for a portion of swimming time, during the day, we are made to leave if new faces are in line to swim, despite their spot in line,” the petition reads. “This invalidates the ‘day pass’ and also the fundamental rules of a ‘First Come-First Serve’ line up.”

The petition suggests council consider designated swim times for localsonly, a reservation system, and evencharging a premium to swimmers from out of town.

On August 4, the district issued a public notice that said pool staff and lifeguards were being verbally abused by patrons. Some have been “holding spots in line for friends and family” while others have been unable to get back in the pool after it’s been cleaned.

“Both of these situations are causing patrons to take out their frustrations on staff,” the notice from CAO Chris Cvik said. “The verbal abuse must stop immediately.”

Mayor Dave Heiberg says he understands the frustration of residents, and that decisions about the pool’s operations were not made lightly to be in compliance with public health orders. 

“Staff put an enormous amount of work in trying to get to a place where we could actually open the pool,” said Heiberg.

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Heriberg said council discussed priority access for residents, but concluded there was no reasonable way to keep track of residents and non-residents. Council will be reviewing the pool schedule to see if entry and exit times can be improved, he said.

“It was something that wasn’t a rash decision at all. I understand people being upset because they can’t get in on a real hot sunny day,” Heiberg said. “I don’t know what system you could come up with that would be perfect for everybody.”

Staffing is also a challenge this year, with three senior lifeguards not returning this summer. Hudson’s Hope has a long history of young adults staffing the pool between semesters of college and university, before moving on to work in their respective fields after graduation.

“We’re really fighting for life-guards,” Heiberg said. “We’re on one of those down cycles, where we don’t have a full complement of staff.”

Email reporter Tom Summer at [email protected]

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