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Majority of Alberni Valley residents want a new pool, according to survey

Port Alberni’s current pool, the Echo Aquatic Centre, is more than 50 years old
The Echo 67 Aquatic Centre is nearing the end of its service life, and many people in Port Alberni want to see a new pool. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

The majority of people in the Alberni Valley want a new pool, according to the results of a recent survey.

The survey, which polled people living in both the City of Port Alberni and in the Alberni Valley’s rural areas, shows that almost 90 percent of respondents (88.6 percent) said they are interested in a new aquatics facility in the Alberni Valley. The people who answered “no” to a new pool are concerned that the costs will be unaffordable for the community.

The survey was conducted by the consultants HCMA Architecture and Design and GDH Solutions, which have been leading a feasibility study for a new pool under the direction of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD). The public engagement portion of the study included both the online survey and two open houses to get feedback from residents.

READ MORE: Port Alberni, ACRD start feasibility study for new pool

John Buttery of HCMA told the ACRD board during a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13 that the survey had 1,250 completed responses. Based on those responses, he said, the consulting firm has several recommendations for a new aquatics facility.

Residents want to see a leisure pool with a focus on fun, including spray features and a lazy river, said Buttery. But they also want to see a separate lap pool with six to eight lanes.

Although a feasibility study for a new pool was conducted back in 2011, this was led by the City of Port Alberni and did not involve the whole region.

“We wanted a fresh start to capture new information,” said Buttery.

The city’s current pool, the Echo Aquatic Centre, is now more than 50 years old, with “rising maintenance costs growing to unsustainable levels,” said Buttery. Despite this, the survey shows that swimming lesson registrations—for both residents and non-residents—have nearly doubled since 2018, and visitor numbers are higher than any of the previous four years.

Buttery also heard from members of the public that more people would visit the pool if operating hours were increased. Seventy percent of respondents said they have travelled to a different community to use their aquatic centre instead of Echo Pool.

“This is telling us that there is a strong demand for aquatics in the region, and that the current facility remains an important asset to the community,” he said.

Consultants are now in the “prioritizing options” phase of the feasibility study, said Buttery, with another public survey expected to come out this fall. The second survey, said Buttery, will include information for the public about associated costs and financial impact per household.

After this last round of public feedback, a final report will be prepared to guide the next steps if the ACRD decides to start work on a new pool.

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Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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