October 20, 2010

Skateboard park more realistic than a pool

As published in The Erin Advocate

Election season always brings out a bit of wishful thinking about recreational facilities, so it was no surprise when council candidates were asked about the possibility of a swimming pool or an additional ice rink in the Town's future.

It is an important discussion to have from time to time, even if it is only a superficial stirring of the pot. And even if there is no hope of a pool, it is interesting to see how candidates respond. Here are excerpts from their answers, in the order they spoke, at the October 6 all-candidates meeting.

John Brennan: "I think it would be wonderful to have a swimming pool in town. It would be a recreational asset and a healthy exercise promoter. They are tremendously expensive to maintain. It would be difficult for us to do on our own, but certainly we should explore the possibility with the school board. For recreational spending, I think we should be spending at about 20 per cent of the operating budget. It's a healthy investment for the town. We need to expand wherever we can, but we need to seek grants and do it in a fiscally responsible manner."

Josie Wintersinger: "Yes, I would be in favour. There are lots of people, and particularly young children, who are not getting the exercise that they need. You also have an older population, and swimming is an activity that they can do. However, that is going to cost funds, and where are we going to get the funds from? I don't see, unless people are going to fundraise for it, how we're going to come up with the kind of money that you need. So in all due fairness, unless as taxpayers you want to contribute a little more, I don't see how it's possible."

Shawn Wilson: "I'd have to say no to a pool. There's one in Caledon. Mayfield has one, I don't think it gets used that much. It's a huge cost. It doesn't say much for our previous planning that now we have to put an addition on the arena for four change rooms. And now you want to put a pool in there? That's not common sense thinking. That's foolish thinking. That's a waste of money and time."

Craig Porterfield: "It would be a nice toy, but the maintenance costs for a pool are just too high. As far as an additional ice rink, I think that's unfeasible as well. You have to be able to be held responsible when spending tax dollars. Frankly, I think that there's too much money that goes towards sports now for a select few."

Barb Tocher: "We'd all love to have them, but can we afford them? We just do not have the critical mass to support a pool. I don't think we're at a time that we can afford that kind of a luxury. There will come a day when we will need a new arena facility with ice pads. We're not there yet. We're taking small steps. The skateboard park will run us about $100,000. How are we going to pay that? Corporate sponsorships, fundraising from the kids that are involved, the stakeholders are getting involved with the town, so they're coming to a partnership."

Deb Callaghan: "Much as I'd love to see a pool in the town, I don't think it's feasible. It's far too cost prohibitive. As far as the skating rinks – quite often the ice surface is empty, no one is using it, so there is no way I could ever support another ice surface."

The mayoral candidates were asked about a pool at the October 14 all-candidates meeting. Lou Maieron expressed his support for a pool, since "not everyone plays hockey". Rod Finnie said that instead of an expensive pool project, "we're looking at a splash pad".

On the issue of a skateboard/BMX park at Centre 2000, it is interesting that much progress has been made just before an election. I hope that the momentum continues after the election.

No opposition was expressed at a recent public meeting, and the Town has agreed to match funds raised one-to-one. Compared to pools and ice rinks, the 5,000 sq. ft. facility is relatively inexpensive ($85,000) and will require little maintenance.

Naturally, there is some risk of noise and rowdy behaviour, but let's face it, that risk exists in many areas. Nearby residents do have a valid concern about noise, so the Town should investigate a buffer of dense trees to reduce the impact.

With young people involved in the fundraising, the risk of vandalism should be diminished. It is a high-traffic area, with three security cameras nearby, so it should be possible to create a safe environment.

This project has been requested many times over the years by young people and their parents, and the time has come time for it to actually happen. When the fundraising starts, I hope that businesses, service clubs and members of the public will be supportive.