Conversation continues around the decommission of Thames Pool
Representatives from the City of London and members of the public have been voicing their opinions on the looming closure of the Thames Park Pool.
A statement was issued Wednesday from London’s Director of Recreation and Sport Jon-Paul McGonigle outlining the damage the pool has withstood over the last few years. In the report, city staff recommended replacing the pool with a splash pad.
Londoners were not pleased with the suggestion, with many calling the Thames Pool a staple of the city. It has been around since 1927, after all, and despite being the oldest outdoor pool in the community, it remains the most popular with more than 25,000 visitors each year.
When word got out about the possible closure, London residents took to social media and started an online petition to keep the beloved facility up-and-running. The form had almost 1,400 signatures by Friday afternoon.
“We need to ensure our voice is heard immediately that the London aquatic community, the downtown community, and the Old South community value this facility and that the City of London needs to reinvest into ensure the long term viability of this historical and community asset,” wrote Jason Wedlake, the person who started the petition.
While advocates in the community are pushing to keep the pool open, city staff say the infrastructure is failing and will continue to do so with environmental impacts becoming more prevalent with every passing year.
“It’s our busiest outdoor pool. There’s no way that any of us wake up in a day and want to take that opportunity away. That’s the reason we come to work and we do what we do – to provide these places and spaces to families,” said McGonigle. “But all of that said, it does not change the reality that we are in right now.”
What has many Londoners up in arms is the amount of money that has recently been invested into the site. The city reported that $238,500 has been spent on pool repairs since 2016. McGonigle confirmed that another $1.25 million was put towards nearby amenities like change rooms and bathrooms in 2021.
What changed between then and now, McGonigle says, is the integrity of the pool’s foundation. He admits there were issues discovered in 2020 and 2021, but city staff had no idea what they would uncover in last year’s pre-inspection.
Since being established almost 100 years ago, the Thames Pool has underwent many serious renovations. McGonigle says it was rebuilt in 1959, 1975, and 2010, with lots of maintenance being done throughout the 80’s and 90’s. McGonigle asserted that the pool’s current state has nothing to do with previous work.
“It really is the change in the environment, the change in the ground water level, the change in the freeze-thaw cycles, and the extent of the damage that those environmental contexts have now done to that pool,” McGonigle explained.
The idea to install a splash pad in place of the Thames Pool takes climate change into consideration, according to McGonigle. Recreation facilities such as these are a lot easier to rectify in the case of a flood compared to an in-ground pool.
A splash pad could also make use of the newly-renovated amenities at the facility, protecting the city’s 2021 investment of over a million dollars.
Aside from scrapping the Thames Pool in favour of a splash pad, councilors have been offered four more potential solutions for the issue – half of which include short-term repairs, while the others involve expensive, long-term refurbishments.
Nothing is set in stone as of yet. The committee will discuss the topic at an upcoming meeting, and their decision will then go to council for final approval.
Regardless of what happens with the Thames Pool, McGonigle wants members of the community to know that city staff also feel passionate about the issue.
“Nobody wants this. That includes us. It includes our entire administrative team that put forward this recommendation,” he said. “This is exactly the expectation we had related to the reaction, and we completely understand. Quite honestly, we had the same reaction.”
-With files from Craig Needles