With the weather warming up, some may be wondering when they can get out and enjoy one of Edmonton’s outdoor pools.
The City of Edmonton said its outdoor pool season will run from July 1 – Aug. 31 this year, due to budget adjustments made in 2020 in response to the financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the end of 2020, city council approved a budget that reflected the fiscal reality and pressures everyone faced as a result of the pandemic,” the city said in a statement Thursday.
“This included approval of reductions to the operating budget for outdoor pools on an ongoing basis and a new operating schedule of July 1 to Aug. 31 started the summer of 2021 and continues this year. It would ultimately be council’s decision to alter this schedule in future years.”
Coun. Anne Stevenson said because the funding cut was a “rollover decision” from 2020, “it certainly wasn’t on my radar in terms of a motion to refund that portion of the operating budget.”
She added that because it is almost June, she imagines that even if city council suddenly made funds available to open the pools earlier, it may not be possible this year.
“My guess would be even if we release the funds now, the staffing up (and) the organization to get those facilities going may not be possible for this summer. But I certainly anticipate and would hope that city staff would be coming forward to re-extend the season in our four-year budget cycle coming up in the fall.”
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“They should be open,” said Coun. Tim Cartmell, adding he believes the need to take steps to ensure money was available to open pools early simply “was missed” by him and council.
“The operational budget for things like pools was cut during COVID… because we were not sure what our finances were going to be,” he said. “But it’s a weird thing, you reduce them once (and then) you actually have to move a motion to increase them back.”
Cartmell said had he been aware the openings would be delayed, he would have said something and will push to see if there is any chance of moving up the opening dates this year.
“Coming out of COVID, we’ve learned that people really cherish their outdoor spaces,” he said, noting that many people like to plan gatherings outdoors because they remain hesitant to gather indoors during the pandemic.
Late Thursday afternoon, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi tweeted that he plans to reach out to city administrators “to see if we can open our outdoor pools earlier to the public this year.”
“(Edmonton) summers are too short as it is, and I want everyone to be able to enjoy them for longer than two months.”
The city said Queen Elizabeth, Oliver, Fred Broadstock outdoor pools and Borden Natural Swimming Pool will begin opening to the public on July 1. Mill Creek Outdoor Pool will remain closed this season to the public due to ongoing rehabilitation.
Entry to outdoor pools is free for youth 12 and under. Visitors for public swim are required to sign up online for a 1.75-hour timeslot before they come to any of the outdoor pools. Reservations are not required for early morning lane swim. Reservations open on June 24, according to the city.
“I completely understand the disappointment,” Stevenson said when asked about families that will be disappointed by the news of the pools’ delayed openings.
“They are wonderful facilities but we have a number of great spots where we can enjoy outdoor fun in the water… in front of city hall… spray parks across the city — so there are opportunities to get out and enjoy the warm weather and splash about until the pools open in July.”