Calgary swim club for youth with Down syndrome facing uncertain future as Inglewood pool closure looms

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Calgary swim club for youth with Down syndrome facing uncertain future as Inglewood pool closure looms
WATCH: Calgary city budget cuts have resulted in two swimming pools being slated for closure in 2020. Members of at least one local swim club say they have no idea where they will go in January and their plans to relocate are now in limbo since city councillors urged city staff to find ways to keep the pools open. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Oct 5, 2019

The Calgary Dolphins Swim Club is looking for a new home after the city announced that both the Inglewood and Beltline swimming pools would be closing in 2020 due to budget cuts.

The club offers programs for youths and adults with Down syndrome, and has been operating out of the Inglewood pool for the past 10 years. Members appreciate the small facility’s central location.

“It’s become a social thing for my son. He’s not a really competitive swimmer but it’s kept him active and connected with his friends so it’s been crucial,” said Richard Sawka on Saturday.

His son, Paul Sawka, has been with the Dolphins for 16 years. Paul swims with his friends at the Inglewood pool Saturday mornings, and Monday and Thursday evenings.

“We love it here,” Paul said after a morning swim on Saturday.

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The swim club is now looking at a few other pools to operate out of — but parents say those would be double the cost of Inglewood and tough for members to navigate.

“As parents of Down syndrome children, we strive to teach our children independence and self-reliance to the best of their ability,” said Karl Gossen, Dolphins Swim Club president.

“Some [of] our older swimmers have developed these skills and because of the Inglewood pool layout, some parents can drop their children off in the parking lot and it is only a few paces from the front door to the change room doors for them.”

Gossen worries that Dolphins Swim Club members won’t be able to have that ease of access in the newer city pools.

“Some of the big, elegant, modern pools that are being built these days with weight rooms and gyms and all these other facilities, our kids would get lost going through the front door and never get there and might not find their way to the front door after practice,” Gossen said.

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At a committee meeting in September, city councillors voted to direct city staff to look for ways to maintain services at both the Inglewood and Beltline pools. A report is expected back to council by the end of November.

“To me, it will be a whole rethink on how we measure these things and how we make decisions such as closing this pool,” said Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart on Sept. 11.

The reprieve has left groups like the Dolphins in limbo, wondering where they will be swimming in January.

“We are trying to make a decision in the next week or two now. We can’t wait until an official council decision,” Gossen said.

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Both the Inglewood and Beltline pools aren’t making the grade when it comes to operating subsidies. The city aims for a 50-50 ratio of tax support versus user fees, but Inglewood needs 71 per cent tax support and Beltline requires 74 per cent.

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