THUNDER BAY – Dease Pool appears to be on the final chopping block. City Administration is proposing spending $260,000 for the demolition of the pool in the 2020 budget.
The pool has faced similar threats in the past. Each time it has survived because the community and the ward councillor have worked to ensure the pool is kept open. Former Ward Councillor Andy Savela told NetNewsLedger on-camera that all the former councillors saw how important Dease Pool is to the McKellar Park neighbourhood. Current Ward Councillor Brian Hamilton has different views.
Advocate for Dease Pool Lori Paras states, “After a year of advocating to Rebuild Dease Pool for the community, and especially the children who depend on it for recreation in the summer months City Administration will be recommending to demolish Dease Pool”.
“Folks, the bulldozer is coming,” adds Paras, “And only your strong voice can help city council choose not to accept this recommendation. This is the wrong decision as the programming that was delivered this summer in its stead was called a ‘Failure’ at the November 6 McKellar Ward Meeting.
The supporters of Dease Pool have a postcard campaign out this week with 10,000 postcards going out in the daily newspaper calling on local residents to call their councillors and ask them to re-build Dease Pool.
The campaign has been ongoing for a year, when at the first meeting of the new City Council a motion was brought forward to close the pool.
Now the motion is to demolish the pool. A proposal to replace the pool with a pickleball court and other recreation facilities has been met with what at best could be mixed results.
Supporters of what is Canada’s oldest inground outdoor swimming pool are continuing their efforts to save the facility.
NetNewsLedger is told the postcard campaign has people calling city hall and being directed to the City Clerk’s office as well as to some Council members.
Dease Pool was the topic of discussion at a community meeting held at The Hub in downtown Fort William. In an often emotional meeting, with twenty concerned residents expressing their concerns and frustration over what they say was a very fast decision to close Dease Pool made by Thunder Bay City Council.
The goal of the group is to re-furbish Dease Pool. The group is asking that people who support saving the pool go to Dease Pool over the Christmas Holidays and hang a bow, or decoration on the fence on the pool.
Chris Krumps hosted the meeting, which was focused on listening and creating community engagement over the decision ratified by City Council at its second meeting on Monday night. There were no representatives present from the City of Thunder Bay or from City Council at tonight’s meeting.
Monday night in a 10-1* vote, Council decided to close the pool following the recommendation of Administration. The deciding vote was cast by the Mayor.
Several councillors on Monday asked for a deferral, and administration told the council that it would be alright to defer the ratification, however, Council decided not to defer, the vote was lost in a 6-5 vote, The vote was tied and Mayor Bill Mauro as the chair cast the deciding vote. Several Councillors were not in attendance. Councillors Ruberto and Giertuga were not in the chamber for the vote.
Kateri Banning says she grew up in the neighbourhood, her grandfather was the manager for Parks and Recreation for thirty-four years. There is a group she told supporters who meet regularly, and the pool and park are important parts of their lives. Keeping a sense of neighbourhood is important to everyone at the meeting.
The Dease Pool was originally built because there were a number of children and youth who had drown in the rivers. The pool opened in 1910, and the school board originally taught swimming lessons at Dease. Other local organizations also were supporting the pool which was used for swim groups over the years, paying a fee for using the pool.
Currently, there are 220 people per week, with an average of two visits per week using the facility according to City Administration. The pool is 1100 square feet in size.
Banning says that Widnall Pool, which Council was told could easily replace Dease Pool, is already at capacity and if the additional kids started going from Dease Pool, walking a significant distance to the pool, and having to cross May Street they could be at risk. The average space for a swimmer in Widnall Pool is five square feet, hardly enough room to even swim.
Banning says “The City of Thunder Bay through Mrs. Robertson who is with Parks and Recreation only consulted with Linda Bruin of Evergreen a United Neighborhood. There apparently is funding for Evergreen being promised in the neighbourhood of $52,000 for added programming”. Banning says that Evergreen’s programming isn’t targeted toward the ages of the youth who usually are in the neighbourhood in Dease.
Sources tell NetNewsLedger that Evergreen, which operates out of the old Hell’s Angels Clubhouse which was seized from the gang and then donated to the group has stable and sufficient funding. Evergreen has been a Minnesota Park staple for the kids in that neighbourhood for years.
There were no community consultations in the Dease neighbourhood.
The pool is in rough shape and Banning says that most of the problem is from neglect and a failure to keep the pool upgraded.
Banning told the audience that it appears to her that the information presented to Council was not as complete as it should have been and that there have been no local companies asked to provide quotes for repair.
Lori Paras says “Unmoneyed people, a term for less fortunate people are being taken advantage of in this decision”. She relayed experiences from her childhood where different neighbourhoods can have turf wars. “Find out what the people wanted, not what administration wanted – it is time to start giving to this side of the city, thinking of these families, these children, and this neighbourhood, it is time for a change”.
“The Dease Pool is not a heritage site but does meet four of the six requirements for a heritage site. That status means that there must be public meetings,” says Banning.
The meeting was told by one attendee, “Building a sense of community comes from having facilities in the local neighbourhood. I think either the city doesn’t understand or it doesn’t care”.
Ray Smith said, “This is dirty pool, bringing this forward at Christmas time, and rushing this through, it will be June before the kids who use Dease Pool. Council says it is about safety, not money, so address it. Bring that pool up to standard. We’re going to give those kids this pool”.
The meeting was told that the process was seemingly rushed.
The group has created a Facebook page: Save Dease Pool.
That page states: “Multiple deputations were made tonight full of facts regarding Dease Pool. Mrs. Robertson admitted to not having any answers to any of the questions posed to her tonight in order to debate the facts presented. She also admitted to no community consultation other than discussions she had with the organization that will benefit by $52,000/annum upon Dease pools closure. Council voted in a tie and somehow we lost due to the tie which still is incomprehensible. It was ratified tonight that the Dease pool is slated to be demolished and that council could care less about the youth in the Dease Park area.”