Cathy Brown and Dave Bains, frequent users of the pool at North Surrey Recreation Centre, are upset about the upcoming closure of the Whalley facility. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Recreation

‘You’re breaking up a society,’ resident says as North Surrey pool closure looms

54-year-old facility to close Dec. 22

While the closure of the North Surrey Recreation Centre will force pool and gym users to switch facilities, but it’s the community base and accessibility that is concerning some of the patrons.

The North Surrey Recreation Complex is closing in two phases, with the first having already happened. The ice rinks at North Surrey Recreation Centre closed in time for the opening of the three rinks at North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex in September.

The recreation centre will officially close Dec. 22, moving its programming to Guildford Recreation Centre (for aquatics), North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex (for fitness and multi-purpose activities) and Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre (for preschool programs).

READ ALSO: Date set for complete closure of North Surrey Recreation Centre, Aug. 21, 2019

READ ALSO: End is near for North Surrey rec centre, June 25, 2019

Cathy Brown, who has been using the North Surrey Recreation Centre on and off since the 1970s, said the problem with the closure is the community base that will be lost since the facility has been around for 54 years.

Brown said the pool is currently serving the needs of elementary and high school students, children and adults for swimming lessons and immigrants and seniors “who have been using the pool for up to 40 years.”

“As well as working people like me, who want to stay in good health,” Brown said.

Brown said she swims two to three times per week during the “value times,” which are discounted rates for swimming. The value swim times, she said, allow her to swim early in the morning before work, but Guildford Recreation Centre doesn’t currently offer value swim times and Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex’s value swim times don’t work with her schedule.

A City of Surrey spokesperson told the Now-Leader it has been planning to introduce value times at the Guildford facility for some time, and that the rates will be in place in 2020.

Brown actually lives within seven minutes of Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex in Fleetwood. She said she’ll try the Fleetwood or Guildford centres once North Surrey closes, but she’s not sure those locations will work with her schedule.

Dave Bains, who’s been swimming at the pool for 38 years, said mobility for the pool users is a “big, big issue.”

“They are so happy they can come here without changing a bus. One bus from their home, and they’re here. To go to Guildford, they have to, basically, come here first, change the bus,” he said.

For Roslyn Simon, who lives within walking distance of North Surrey, she said she may try and go to Guildford to swim.

“But if there’s snow on the ground, there’s no way I am going to be able to walk out and catch a bus because I use a cane. I have terrible knees. Mobility is a bit of a problem,” said Simon, adding that she uses the pool to help with her mobility.

Like Brown, Simon said there is “a whole community being destroyed” with the facility’s closure.

“It’s not just a pool. It’s more than a pool, there are human beings involved,” she said. “Removing the pool is not just a pool, you’re breaking up a society. We care about each other.”

Laurie Cavan, the city’s manager of Parks, Recreation and Culture, previously told the Now-Leader that 30,000 “individual users” annually pass through the rec centre’s doors, for a total of close to 170,000 annual drop-in visits.

A June 24 council report detailed plans to decommission and eventually demolish the facility, which was first built in 1965 and renovated several times over the years.

In the report to council, staff recommended a complete decommissioning of the existing (North Surrey rec centre) as soon as possible” after the opening of North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex, located near Scott Road SkyTrain station.

The report and plans passed with only Councillor Steven Pettigrew opposed.Pettigrew told the Now-Leader that he’s concerned about the people living around City Centre who won’t have access to a local pool.

“For many of the residents this pool has become a social gathering place as well as a fitness facility. I know that we have a pool in Guildford, but the City Centre area will be having many thousands of people moving into it,” he said.

The city, Pettigrew said, needs to make sure that a new pool is built as soon as possible, adding that a new pool should be part of the city’s own recreational facilities.

“People who have a city rec pass should be able to use the new pool and not pay any additional money to do so.”

The facility’s location would make way for a mixed-use “centre block” development that’s included in the Surrey City Centre plan.

“Redevelopment will facilitate the completion of a north-south pedestrian corridor, and an on-street bus exchange,” the plan says. “The north-south pedestrian corridor will meander through the Centre Block and vary in width to include large and small plazas. The plazas will include amenities such as seating, bike racks, public art, and specialty paving. The edges of the plaza will be animated with strong, four to six-storey building podiums and active uses at grade.

“The existing bus loop will be reconfigured into an on-street transit exchange,” the plan adds. “The completion of key east-west streets, Central Avenue (103 Avenue) and 102A Avenue, will facilitate bus drop off along 102A Ave and bus pick-up along Central Avenue. The bus layover facility, which is currently located within the bus loop, will be relocated within close proximity to the Centre Block.”

Also included in the report is a proposed City Centre YMCA, which would be built in partnership with Simon Fraser University, with the facility being similar to the Tong Louie YMCA in the Sullivan-area.

The YMCA of Greater Vancouver is in talks with the city, Surrey City Development Corporation and SFU to construct “a modern community, health, fitness and recreation facility” in the area.

The YMCA’s website states it’s working toward opening a new Surrey City Centre facility in 2021, but as of September the it was still looking to secure a site.

As for admission fees, it’s currently more expensive to use Tong Louie Family YMCA than North Surrey Recreation Centre. The rec centre’s adult drop-in rate is $7.25, or $73 for a month, compared to the Y’s adult “joining fee” of $50 plus biweekly dues of $29.99. The Y’s adult drop-in fee is $15.

However, as a charity, the YMCA is able to offer financial assistance to those who can’t afford the fees.

– with files from Tom Zillich

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