Susan Simmons (right) and Melia Motchman address Victoria council on Thursday night. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

Swimmers, advocates plead to Victoria council for new Crystal Pool facility

Many swimmers dependant on the pool are afraid to be without any athletic resources

Crystal Pool enthusiasts and swimmers alike addressed Victoria council on Thursday night in an organized effort to get their message across: a new Crystal Pool Facility is needed now.

Local pool advocate and well-known swimmer Susan Simmons came forward, speaking about how the pool has become a necessary resource for her as she manages living with Multiple Sclerosis.

“Crystal Pool is not my passion, it’s my lifeline and I can feel it slowly slipping away,” Simmons said.

She added that she wasn’t there to address the city, but rather the North Park Neighbourhood Association, which have been at the centre of considerable debates on the pool’s location after citing a feared loss of greenspace if the new pool was built at Central Park.

READ MORE: Crystal pool advocates hold mixed feelings as Victoria explores previously studied sites

Simmons, along with the team of Special Olympic and team Spirit Orca members she trains, are advocating for the pool to be built at the originally-proposed location at the south-west corner of Central Park. They argue that an alternative location the city is considering at 940 Caledonia Ave., the parking lot next to the Royal Athletic Park, would not be large enough to accommodate a 50 m pool.

“I recognize your community is grappling with a number of issues and I’m very sorry you’re at the centre of the Crystal Pool debacle,” Simmons said “As the decision for a new Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre is being made by your community, also think of my friend Melia with heartfelt compassion.”

Melia Motchman, a 28-year-old swimmer with Down syndrome uses the pool as she trains for long-distance swims, such as a 5 km swim she accomplished at Thetis Lake last year.

“Like you, I value parks and value trees, but I also know trees can be planted and parks can change,” Simmons concluded.

ALSO READ: Victoria council directs staff to reexamine original Crystal Pool designs at previously-explored locations

Greg Hind, a Special Olympics trainee asked council to keep the old pool open while a new one is being built.

“I love being at Crystal Pool; it’s a good-sized pool for us as a team,” Hind said. “To lose the pool would make us all sad, it’s the only pool that can accommodate us.”

Pool advocate and upcoming byelection candidate Karmen McNamara presented a four-minute video showcasing active pool users, including senior swimmer Pauline McCullaugh.

“Since I’m going to be 82 and counting down I’d really like to swim in the new pool before my death day,” she said.

The City of Victoria has taken more than two years to decide on designs and a location for a replacement pool. The current Crystal Pool is ailing, and costs approximately $100,000 per month for maintenance fees alone.

In February, city staff are scheduled to bring council all current research available for eligible sites.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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