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Karen Gill Tara Somerville Kim ClarkKaren Gill (centre) alongside SSRAPnow committee members Tara Somerville (left) and Kim Clark during a delegation to Saugeen Shores Council, March 26.

Hub Staff

A coalition of community members, swimmers, and lifesavers have come together to form SSRAPnow (Saugeen Shores Recreation Centre and Pool, now), a group of Saugeen Shores citizens committed to a new recreational aquatic facility in Saugeen Shores.

During a delegation to Council March 26 Karen Gill, alongside committee members Tara Somerville and Kim Clark, and supported by people in the gallery wearing orange ribbons; informed Council of the committee’s efforts and announced that on May 14 at 5:15 p.m., members of SSRAPnow will take part in Walk for RAP, a walk from Giant Tiger to the proposed rec centre location.

“We are asking all residents who are supporting our new facility to wear your orange. Bring your kids, dogs, and strollers with little ones. Bring your signs, balloons, and walking shoes,” said Gill, adding that the group has formed a Facebook page with more information.

“Prior to the Walk for RAP, we will ask all businesses that support a new facility to also show their support by decorating their windows in orange,” she said, adding that home owners are also invited to show their support with orange ribbons and bows.

Breakers Swim Team President Jeff Horseman who had donned an orange ribbon for Monday night’s meeting, said during the Open Forum that the Breakers Swim Team have been a mainstay user group at Centennial Pool since 1974. “It continues to discourage me that our facility has gone from the jewel of the area in the 1970–80’s, to what I have to say right now is somewhat as a laughing stock with respect to the infrastructure,” Horseman said, adding that the Breakers Swim Team used to host five to six competitions a year but now are unable to host mini-meets like the Southport Optimist Invitational Meet.

“Swim teams no longer want to compete in our pool,” he said, explaining that swim meets require a minimum 25 metre pool with six lanes as well as a proper viewing area, with regional competitions requiring a minimum eight lanes.

Horseman said that when he learned through the media that the Town was in potential talks with YMCA he was concerned that increased fees would “price us out of existence” as their current membership is $1,280 for each swimmer.

Matt Barfoot also took to the mic during the Open Forum and told councillors that he knew that a new pool and rec facility would not be a simple endeavour. “I want Saugeen Shores to continue to have a thriving pool so that all people in our community can continue to stay active through swimming,” he said, but touched on the fact that the current facility isn’t accessible for everyone. “I have seen individuals struggle with the many obstacles between the parking lot all the way to the pool deck,” he added. Barfoot said he felt that Saugeen Shores has been denying people with accessibility issues the opportunity to participate in pool activities.

The last to speak was one of the younger members of SSRAPnow in attendance, Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) student Madi McNeill, who has been a member of the Saugeen Shores Lifesaving Club for over six years. McNeill told councillors that she just completed an instructor course and would like to make the Canadian National Swim Team and represent Saugeen Shores in Italy in 2020. “Our aquatics facility is great, but it’s old and it is nearing the end of its life cycle and without a pool I won’t be able to reach my goals,” said the swimmer.

During her delegation, Gill told councillors that in 2007 the number of people that used Centennial Pool was 22,943 and that when tracked in 2016 the number had increased to 42,240. Gill suggested that there is no more room for all users who want to get into the water. “Swimming lessons continue to be full. New programs such as the Lifesaving Fundamentals group, Aquabike and others have been formed. We are running out of pool space and time slots in our single tank,” Gill said, adding that parents have children on waiting lists for swimming lessons. “How many families are already making the drive to Owen Sound to get their children into a class? While the parents are there maybe they are jumping on the walking track too,” said Gill.

Councillor Mike Myatt was the first councillor to comment and commended the group, adding that in his mind Council could not build a new facility fast enough, and that Saugeen Shores has “fallen behind in aquatics.”

Councillor Neil Menage suggested that when he’s no longer a councillor he would like to join the committee and invited the group to figure out how to finance a facility. “We can’t take things like the [YMCA] off the table even if it’s going to cost more money,” he said. “There is no question in my mind that if we say yes to this project...it’s going to cost everybody in this town money, and we need those kinds of partnerships or it’s definitely no.”

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau reminded the group that the Town would need help to build the pool option that costs $21 million, the one that the majority of people want. “We just can’t self finance without putting ourselves in great financial peril,” he said, adding that money needed to come from somewhere else. “Consider working with us to broaden out your lobbying effort to those federal and provincial members of parliament... we need that support from other levels of government,” said Charbonneau.

Mayor Mike Smith was the last to speak on the subject and recalled community projects and how they had succeeded because of the ideas of community members “who get together and bring the idea forward and help Council find a solution to that problem,” he said, adding that he admired the group.

madi mcneillSwimmer and member of the Saugeen Shores Lifesaving Club, Madi McNeill spoke to councillors about the need for a new pool during the Open Forum, March 26.

jeff horsemanBreakers Swim Team President Jeff Horseman during Open Forum with a sea of supporters donning an orange ribbon, March 26.

matt barfootMatt Barfoot chose to speak in support of a new pool during the Open Forum, March 26.