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Regina residents band trees to show how many will be lost to Wascana Pool renewal

The approved design for the Wascana Pool renewal will impact 69 trees and cover 6,400 square metres.
The approved design for the Wascana Pool renewal will impact 69 trees and cover 6,400 square metres. Derek Putz / Global News

The City of Regina’s approved renewal and expansion of the former Wascana Pool site is receiving pushback from a group of concerned residents.

Around 40 people involved with the grassroots group Friends of Wascana Pool arrived in staggered shifts Wednesday to tie ribbons around trees near the site.

The demonstration was intended to show how many trees will be demolished once construction gets underway.

READ MORE: City of Regina releases new Wascana Pool concept designs

“It’s sad what’s going to happen to these trees,” said Joey Reynolds, a former First Nations elder helper, who offered food and prayers to the trees.

“What [the city] is doing is wrong. It’s business and it’s capitalism.”
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The City of Regina unveiled its design concept for the Wascana Pool renewal in early February, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in Saskatchewan.

The expanded footprint, which will see the removal of 69 trees, includes a larger pool, separate wading pool, a lazy river, hot tub and water slides among other amenities.

A concept design for the renewed Wascana Pool in Regina
A concept design for the renewed Wascana Pool in Regina. City of Regina

Karen Rose, who helped organize Wednesday’s tree banding, said while the idea of an expanded aquatic facility is good, it’s not worth the cost to the park for three months of use.

“This should be built elsewhere. Indoors, 12 months a year. It will be great for families and everyone, but right now we should keep this park a park,” Rose said, adding there’s still concerns over possible parking expansions in nearby green space.

“I think there’s time to reexamine this and make a common sense, logical decision and a decision that agrees with what the majority of the people who use the pool and the park really want.”

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Plans ready for development: city

The Wascana Pool renewal was a direct response to the City of Regina’s Recreation Master Plan released in 2019.

Janine Daradich, manager of planning and partnerships for the City of Regina, said more than a year’s worth of public consultation took place before the concept design was approved.

“We had a thorough and thoughtful engagement process where we engaged with a number of residents in the city and stakeholders,” she said.

According to the city, around 500 residents took part in market research, and more than 4,000 responded to an online survey, in the first phase of public consultation.

More than 5,300 residents responded to the second phase of public consultation, which included an online survey and open house in November 2019, on preferences for pool basin design and features.

READ MORE: Wascana pool design receives mixed reviews

“We asked several questions related to the fit within the park, and related to the type of amenities they would like to see in the park,” Daradich said, adding tree removal was mentioned during this process.

“We did let residents know it would require footprint changes of the facility.”

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Daradich said the city is aware of Wascana Park’s importance to the community, and have included environmental plans to recoup the natural losses.

“We are going to work closely with the Provincial capital commission on any removals or relocations and our plan is to plant three trees for every tree that’s removed due to the renewal project,” she said.

Daradich confirmed 69 trees will be removed. She also clarified the city doesn’t discriminate between hand-planted and naturally seeded trees.

She said there will still be a number of trees surrounding the expanded site.

The city said it has not secured a contractor for the project, however, the plan is still for construction to begin this year. No date has been set for tree removal.

The original Wascana Pool was built in the 1950s and demolished in 2019.

Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan reports 2 new deaths, 3 new cases of COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Saskatchewan reports 2 new deaths, 3 new cases of COVID-19