Old South not ready to throw in the towel on Thames Park Pool | CBC News
Though city staff are reluctantly recommending its closure, many Londoners are hoping council can find a way to save Thames Park Pool.
An online petition calling for the Old South pool to stay open had amassed 1,500 signatures by Friday.
Meanwhile, neighbourhood Facebook groups are buzzing with disappointment about the prospect of losing their much-loved pool.
“Why would that ever be considered?” asked Janet Craig on the Old South Community Board.”It will be a terrific loss for Old South.”
Swimmer Maggie Mac Neil, a London native who trained at Thames Park Pool before becoming a multi-medal winning Olympian, implored council to keep it open.
“I love Thames Pool,” she said in a statement to CBC News. “Pools are so important, and it’s not just about competitive swimming. It’s about water safety, healthy lifestyles and bringing people together. I did my swimming lessons and Lifesaving there. It’s in an area of London that needs it and in the summer there’s always people there, whether that’s family swim or diving.
“I don’t think we should throw in the towel on Thames Pool.”
Most well-used outdoor pool
Fifty meters long with eight swimming lanes, Thames Pool is the largest and most well-used of London’s 11 outdoor pools. About 25,000 people use it each year.
And while the prospect of losing it is painful, a staff report coming to council’s community and protective services committee on Tuesday argues that its location on a floodplain will forever leave it vulnerable to expensive repairs to fix water damage.
The problem, according to findings in the report, is the area’s high water table. Often the soil around the pool deck stays wet. When wet earth freezes and expands, it can crack the pool’s tank and piping.
“It is clear from the history of repairs and investigations completed, that Thames Pool has experienced significant and repeated infrastructure damage due to its location in the floodplain,” the report says.
The pool was built in 1927 and rebuilt in 2010. However since then, the city has made the following repairs due to water damage:
- 2016 – Pool deck repairs ($5,000).
- 2017 – Leaks in circulation lines repaired ($11,000).
- 2018 – Major flood, with height of the Thames River was 1.2m (4 ft.) above pool deck ($145,000).
- 2019 – Leaks in return lines repaired ($15,000).
- 2020 – Flooding into the filtration room, equipment damaged/replaced ($7,500).
- 2021 – Return lines repaired ($20,000).
- 2022 – Pool caulking redone and repainted tank floor for waterproofing ($35,000).
The report lays out a handful of repair options going forward, including building a site well to “monitor ground water conditions” and adding ports to relieve the underground water pressure. That would cost about $375,000. A more involved version of that repair would add new wall returns and a thicker concrete pool pad. That option would cost $800,000 and take eight months.
The options presented in the report ramp up to a full rebuild, which would take 18 months and cost $12 million.
The underlying problem with the pool, according to the report, is that there’s no way to guard against future damage by flooding or frost heave.
“The risk of future infrastructure failure cannot be eliminated at its current site in the floodplain with any of the other options considered,” the report concludes.
Painful decision for staff
Jon Paul McGonigle, the city’s director of recreation and sport, said recommending closure wasn’t an easy option.
“We know that this is an incredibly difficult recommendation,” said McGonigle. He said city staff will work with the neighbourhood about the possibility of adding a splash pad to the area, but also admitted it will never be a full replacement for a pool.
“We’re feeling much disappointment and sadness about this situation along with the community and understand the reaction to the recommendation,” he said.
And although a line in the staff report recommends against spending money on more outdoor pools due to their shorter swim season and vulnerability to the elements, McGonigle said the city has no plans to abandon its outdoor pools en masse.
“We have redeveloped seven of those 11 outdoor pools already,” he said. McGonigle said staff will look at each outdoor pool on a case-by-case basis as maintenance issues come up. He said the city refurbished Byron Pool in 2019, Southcrest Pool in 2017, Westminster Pool in 2013 and Gibbons Pool in 2011.
A separate report coming to committee on Tuesday puts forward a plan to spend $100,000 on repairs to Glen Cairn outdoor pool in south London. It didn’t open at all for last summer’s swim season due to maintenance issues.
McGonigle said London’s lineup of 11 outdoor pools compares well with Hamilton’s 10 pools, while Windsor has six.
He said the problems at Thames Park Pool are unique to that site.
“We don’t view the issue at Thames Pool as having any impact on future decisions for other pools,” he said.
As for Gibbons Pool, another outdoor pool located on a floodplain, McGonigle said its higher elevation and different soil conditions have allowed it to avoid the same water problems that now stand to force the closure of Thames Park Pool.