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Regina residents protest closure of Maple Leaf Pool

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WATCH: Regina residents gathered outside of Maple Leaf Pool on Saturday to protest against the pool’s closure after 72 years of service – Dec 9, 2018

Residents of Regina’s Heritage community say winter daydreams of hot days spent at the aging Maple Leaf Pool have become a nightmare as the facility closes for good.

“I met my best friend there. I can swim whenever I want because it’s free. I get a lunch. I could stay there all day,” 11-year-old Lilla Fayant said through tears. “Don’t close it. It means a lot to a lot of kids. It’s what a lot of kids do every day. It’s all they have, sometimes, in the summer.”

The crumbling 72-year-old pool is well past its lifespan according to the city, its workers, and the people who use and love it.

“It’s obvious the pool has been deteriorating over the past number of years,” Heritage Community Association executive director Shayna Stock said. “This isn’t the first time in recent years the city has wanted to close it for issues of safety and condition. It’s not a surprise it needs to close, but I wish the city had made a better plan before it got to this point.”

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READ MORE: Regina getting set to open up outdoor pools

Roughly 50 residents gathered on a frigid Saturday morning to protest the pool’s closure and the future of their neighbourhood recreation.

A budget proposal to replace two of Regina’s five outdoor pools with a $15 million outdoor destination aquatic facility in Wascana Centre has the working-class community feeling pushed aside.

It’s unknown if the new pool would be free to use, or how much additional transit would be added to help these people get there.

“We’d have to take a bus all the way to Wascana pool,” 13-year-old Abshir Mohamed explained. “Anything could happen to us and I don’t feel safe on a bus with a bunch of random people without my parents or older brothers.”

“It would probably cost money and it’s too far away,” Fayant added.

While most residents have accepted Maple Leaf Pool won’t reopen because of safety issues, they don’t want to see the area forgotten or replaced with something they don’t want.

READ MORE: Proposed Regina water park makes waves in 2019 budget

“We’re having experts tell us, maybe there’s other ways of servicing these communities, not just in the summer, but year round,” Ward 3 councillor Andrew Stevens said.

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“Maybe we can have increased access to another pool structure for this community. That means programming along with it, and maybe we have to have a conversation in this community about a skate park and a splash pad or basketball courts – or maybe it’s a bigger project that’s something indoors.”

“The idea of a spray park in this neighbourhood is silly,” Stacey Fayant said. “There’s one nearby at the Al Ritchie Centre. That’s for little kids. You’re not going to see seniors cooling off at a spray pad, but you see them at the pool.”

Stevens says he’ll fight for public consultation on the area’s future at city council’s Dec. 10 budget meeting. He wants input wrapped up within the first six months of 2019 to help form a plan.

READ MORE: City councillor seeks solution for embattled Broad Street

“I also want to see at least $4 million in the 2020 capital budget,” he added. “There may be some debate over those numbers, but I want to make sure if the city is committed to reinvesting in this community, we have money for consultation, concept planning, and capital going forward.”

“If this is going to cost $4-5 million to replace by modern architectural standards, then $4 million needs to be reinvested.”

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Many of those in attendance at Saturday’s rally plan to attend Monday’s meetings.

“Ideally, we would love to see the pool rebuilt,” Stock said. “That’s a lot more expensive than some of the other things they’ve proposed, but we’d like to see the investment remain in the community.”

It may be the end of the line for the Maple Leaf Pool, but residents have made it clear their fight isn’t over just yet.

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