Swimmers from the Langley and Abbotsford Olympians swim clubs lined up at the start line in Walnut Grove pool before a race in January, 2019 (File photo by Kieran O’Connor/Black Press Media)

Township looks at ‘next possible steps’ to re-open Walnut Grove pool to competition

Review is only an update, not ‘prescriptive,’ mayor Froese cautioned

A campaign to have competitive swimming resume at Langley’s Walnut Grove pool convinced Langley Township council to have staff look into “next possible steps” in re-opening recreational facilities that were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councillor Blair Whitmarsh made the proposal at the Monday, Sept. 21 meeting of council, indicating it was in response to “members of the community [who] are requesting information on the re-opening plans for the Township recreation facilities that remain closed.”

Whitmarsh explained he was looking for information, not a commitment to an exact opening date.

“Lots of other communities are opening [their rec facilities] and there may be very good reasons why we aren’t opening ours,” Whitmarsh commented.

Coun. Kim Richter opposed the proposal, saying with COVID-19 cases on the rise, council should not be pressured by what she described as “special interest groups.”

“We have to look at the risk factors,” Richter argued.

“Just because some group or other groups want to have pools opened, doesn’t justify putting the whole community at risk.”

Mayor Jack Froese viewed the review by staff as an update, not something “prescriptive” to set a reopening date.

Staff are scheduled to make a presentation to council on “next possible steps” at the Monday, Oct. 5 meeting.

READ ALSO: Reopen pools to swimmers, Langley Township urged

Earlier in the day, Kristi McIntosh of the Langley Olympians swim club (LOSC) made another pitch to council to end the continuing shutdown of Walnut Grove pool, the club’s normal base for practices and hosting competitions.

In March, LOSC swimmers lost their practice places at the Walnut Grove and W.C. Blair indoor pools, when they were ordered closed as part of the COVID-19 lockdown.

READ ALSO: Langley swim club unsure about Township pool reopening

While the club is grateful the township has since reopened the outdoor pool in Aldergrove, McIntosh told council there are problems; the commuting time from Walnut Grove, where most club members live, to Aldergrove, the coming of school, and fall weather.

“The outside temperatures are going to drop soon,” she warned.

Walnut Grove, a “superior” indoor facility which can host top-level meets , is a better option, according to McIntosh.

As for potential viral heath hazards, McIntosh noted thatCOVID “outbreaks are not at pools,” and Township skating rinks have been cleared to re-open.

McIntosh, a parent and volunteer with the LOSC, described how the club been reduced from 260 to 70, mostly older competitive swimmers.

“We have lost members to Surrey clubs,” McIntosh reported.

LOSC swimmers are “beyond anxious,” McIntosh said.

She told council one of them is her 17-year daughter, who, she described as one second away from an Olympic trial time and potentially qualifying for a university swim team.

“She just needs to get a race in,” McIntosh said.

“This is killing her.”

After the meeting and the vote to look into “next possible steps,” McIntosh said she was “kind of” encouraged.


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