by Mac Christie Flamborough Review
Hamilton is in the midst of completing a feasibility study for a municipal pool in Waterdown. – John Rennison
Will Waterdown be getting a new public pool?
The answer is complicated.
Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge said the city is in the midst of completing a feasibility study on the topic, but it has been held up by finding a potential location. Part of the issue, she said, is that there is a lack of city-owned property within Waterdown.
However, she said the feasibility study has determined there is a need for a pool and recreation facility in Waterdown — in addition to the one at the Flamborough Family YMCA.
Waterdown will see a significant population growth as a result of continued development, particularly on the east side of the core. The area, south of Dundas Street, will see the construction of six condo buildings, including three highrises.
“That’s just in that one location,” said Partridge.
In addition, there are additional homes to be built in the Mountainview Heights development and another subdivision that has not even begun on the west side of Waterdown, north of Parkside Drive.
“The figures are still moving in terms of population,” said the local councillor.
In terms of the current usage of the Flamborough Y, Kyla Kumar, YMCA of Hamilton-Burlington-Brantford vice-president of marketing and communications, said there is “certainly a strong utilization of the pool service” in Waterdown.
She noted the Parkside Drive facility has two pools. The larger is designed for lane swim, aquafit and swim lessons, while the smaller leisure pool is designed for younger children and families in swim lessons.
Kumar added access to all swim times and programs is provided to YMCA members. Non-members can access lane swims, open swims and aquafit at individual swim pass rates.
She said the Flamborough YMCA saw 60,248 individual swim lessons over the period of March 2019 to March 2020, prior to the closure due to COVID-19. Of the 2,120 swim spots available monthly, 1,360 registered spots are taken, with 35 per cent of spots still available.
Over the calendar year, Kumar said 90 per cent of child and youth members registered in swimming lessons. Meanwhile, the facility was accessed 16,231 times for aquafit and there were 35,508 accesses for lane and open swims.
As well, there are 50 youth employed as lifeguards and swim instructors and 25 participants in life-saving courses.
Kumar added the YMCA still has about 35 per cent capacity and does not have a waitlist – apart from if a family wants to access a preferred swim time.
“There certainly is ability to accommodate more individuals and children in our swim program,” she said. “We did make some changes to make more spaces available to our swim program last year.”
Potential locations for a new pool, according to Partridge, include Harry Howell Arena, Mary Hopkins School or a partnership with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to build a pool in conjunction with a new school slated for east Waterdown.
But each location has its challenges.
“From my perspective, I would love to see the pool built on the west end (of Harry Howell Arena) or somehow connected to the building,” said Partridge, who went on to say that there are issues with the surrounding wetlands, as well as Ministry of Transportation easements that could make locating a pool facility attached to the arena an issue.
“The toughest thing is that the city doesn’t own a lot of property in town — other than park land,” she said. “We’re not going to look at Memorial Park or Joe Sams Park, in terms of a recreation building.”
However, potential to partner with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and build the pool in conjunction with a proposed new school in east Waterdown has merit, she said.
“There are a couple examples of partnerships in the City of Hamilton at other locations between the city and board.”
In March, HWDSB Ward 15 trustee Penny Deathe said the new school project is at the mercy of the provincial government.
The new school, which would take pressure off of the existing schools in Waterdown — particularly Mary Hopkins Elementary School — has been discussed for several years. The school board was previously waiting for the Mountainview Heights development on the south side of Dundas Street, east of Burke Street, to proceed to Phase 3.
The land has now been registered and the process of buying the land has started, but Deathe said once the land is bought, they still have to wait for the Ministry of Education to open the capital priorities grant for applications, something that generally happens once per year.
It was last opened in September 2019.
In an interview, Deathe said in making a business case for a new school, the ministry will look at all the elementary schools in the area and assess their utilization.
“In the past, they haven’t funded us unless we are bursting at the seams in all our schools,” she said.
Deathe noted the board did not do an accommodation review in Flamborough because they are pretty full in their existing schools.
“It’s not like we have to close schools because we have some sitting half empty,” she said.
Deathe said most of the schools in Ward 15 are pretty close to full, but in other school boards, the ministry has suggested that if there is space at a high school, to make it a Grade 7-12 school. While that is more common in northern communities, Deathe said it has been done elsewhere, so the possibility exists the province could suggest it.
“You just don’t know what scenarios they will come back with, but they will review it,” she said. “As far as we’re concerned as a board, we want a new school, we’re going to submit the business plan when we can submit it and then we have to wait for approval from the ministry.”
In terms of a partnership with the City of Hamilton to build a new pool in Waterdown, Deathe said the school board will always entertain proposals from the city.
For her part, Partridge said the uncertainty around the new east Waterdown school means the pool partnership remains “up in the air.”
“We can’t definitively start even discussing it with the school board because they don’t know for sure if they’re going to get the school, if they’re going to get the money or not,” she said. “There are too many variables right now.”
Partridge said as a result the city is following multiple paths for potential locations, adding she would like to see it either within an elementary school or Harry Howell Arena.
“I think Harry Howell would be my first preference.”
Partridge added it would also take time to get any project into the city budget.
“We’re probably talking about a $20-million complex that we then would need to get into our budget. That usually takes about five years,” she said. “It’s kind of a hurry up and wait.
“It’s frustrating, because I really want to get that pool built, but there are a lot of variables that are unknowns right now and until we get those nailed down, there’s not much we can do.”