Petition calls for rebuild of Coquitlam pool

A 531-signature petition was submitted to Coquitlam city hall last week to reopen or rebuild the only outdoor pool in Maillardville.

On Monday, council-in-committee heard from Rochester Avenue resident Jim Kelly, who collected the names over the past month. Kelly was joined at his presentation by Jennifer Martin, a mother of five who stressed a pool - especially for tweens and teens - is essential in the neighbourhood.

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The closure of Rochester Pool two years ago struck a nerve in the growing community, where Kelly and Martin said about a quarter of children are identified as "vulnerable" because of low family incomes.

The closure was raised by the committee earlier this spring, when Coun. Mae Reid said she didn't agree with the findings of a 2012 study for the city that showed outdoor pools are not well used and are expensive to run.

The city pulled the plug on the 44-year-old Rochester tank (and filled it with sand for summer programming) because of cracks and other safety concerns. City staff said the pool had been failing since 2007 and, in 2011, classes were moved to Spani and Eagle Ridge outdoor pools - a good trek for south Coquitlam families, Martin said.

"The sand pit doesn't work. We want our pool back," she told the committee.

According to a city report, it would cost $170,000 to repair the 25-yard basin or $4 million to replace it. Sekora, who two years ago called for Rochester Pool to be demolished, has since softened his stance, noting the changing demographics in Maillardville.

"Maybe we should rethink it," he suggested.

Coun. Craig Hodge said the the pool decommissioning has been "a rallying point" for the community. (A Facebook page was created in 2012 by an area resident, titled "Save Rochester Pool." It now has 218 members.)

However, Hodge said he recently canvassed the neighbourhood and got mixed reviews as to whether the pool should be rebuilt at Rochester Park - which is about to undergo renovation work by the city and has limited parking - or elsewhere.

Raul Allueva, Coquitlam's acting general manager of parks and recreation, said the redevelopment of Rochester Park is a priority for council and city staff are now taking an inventory of the park assets, some of which are shared by School District 43. A preliminary assessment is due to come before city council next month; an open house is expected to happen with the Maillardville community in the fall, Allueva said.

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