Surrey’s “Return to Recreation” plan includes reopening Newton’s popular wave pool, which has been closed for more than two years, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A reopening date for South Surrey’s indoor pool remains “TBD” (to be determined), as the last of Surrey’s five indoor pools still shut down.
“We currently have Guildford Aquatic, Surrey Sport & Leisure and Grandview Heights pools open,” noted Laurie Cavan, Surrey’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture. “The South Surrey indoor pool remains closed, and we’re trying to satisfy the needs there with the Grandview Heights aquatic facility being open.”
Starting March 29, Newton Wave Pool will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 3:30 to 7:30. The pool will be closed Monday, Wednesday and Friday – at least for now.
Prior to 2020, Surrey’s indoor pools employed close to 500 aquatic staff, Cavan said. With 300 now on the job, there’s a staff shortage of around 200, and it’s a similar story at pools across B.C., Cavan said.
“Our biggest challenge has really been in relation to lifeguard recruitment,” Cavan explained. “We were closed through COVID, obviously, and we had a gradual reopening through several phases with that.… Given the modified timelines of reopening, a number of lifeguards at our facilities, and across the province, did not continue maintaining their lifeguard qualifications. So we’re actively recruiting right now and training, to bring more lifeguards back on. It’s been one of our primary constraints in offering more aquatic opportunities in the city.”
For those who want to work as a lifeguard in Surrey, “this is an excellent time to train for that,” Cavan added. “Our website outlines all of the steps for people to become lifeguards, the courses needed, and that could include people of any age. At any point in life it can be a good job. We also need the people to teach the courses.”
Meanwhile, a new pool will be included in Newton Community Centre, to be built in the 6900-block of King George Boulevard – a half-kilometre from the wave pool.
“Right now we are still finalizing the design, and the direction there is that the first contract award will be for an aquatic facility, with additional recreation to follow,” Cavan explained. “That’s planned to be a 50-metre pool with leisure pool components – a lazy river, hot tub, steam room. It’s another huge amenity coming to the City of Surrey. We are focused on finalizing that facility and you’ll see more information coming forward in the coming months.
The new community centre’s pool “will be a different type of pool than the wave pool, which is a good facility and is meeting some of the community needs, but you can’t swim lengths there, and there are all kinds of constraints with that facility,” Cavan added. “Really, the best practice is to combine some leisure with a full aquatic offering, which is what you see at our three existing major aquatic facilities (in Guildford, Grandview Heights and Fleetwood).”
“They’re in the lifeguard recruitment process as well,” Cavan noted, “and they have a couple of months to recruit.”
She said that at this point in the pandemic, “we definitely want to have our facilities open and offer programs in a safe manner, and back to full operations in the coming months.
“Everybody seems eager to return to our recreation facilities, and it will be a challenge for us to meet those demands,” Cavan said. “We’re seeing that with registration for swim classes, for skating lessons, our seniors programs, fitness. We’re planning our daycamps right now, and we’re recruiting staff for those as well. The Clayton Community Centre just opened up, really, through COVID, and we are getting those programs fully up and running. The facility has been open on a limited basis but we haven’t been fully able to utilize that facility to date.”
For Surrey’s summer day camps, early registration opens April 10 at 9 p.m. and continues until camps are full. For details, visit surrey.ca or call 604-501-5100.
Masks are now optional when in Surrey’s facilities, and proof of COVID vaccination remains in place until April 8, among other restrictions being eased.