by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent
Getting into swimming lessons at St. Albert’s Fountain Park Pool may have become slightly more difficult for those living in Morinville.
The City recently instated a new rule allowing St. Albert residents and Servus Place Annual Members first dibs on programming and preferred timeslots.
The change came into effect earlier this month for Fall Registrations—St. Albert residents (and Servus Place Members) were able to sign up on Aug. 3 and one week later, on Aug. 10, registration opened up to everyone else.
Shaun Percival, the Aquatic Services Manager with the City of St. Albert said in an interview on Aug. 17, the decision to limit registration was made by Council in late June. Percival, who was careful to say the decision was not a policy change but rather a new operational protocol, did not elaborate as to why the City made the decision in the first place (beyond stating it was a direction from Council).
In a report to St. Albert’s councillors, dated June 27, however, the City’s Administration did go into depth on the ‘Aquatic Program Oversubscription Issues’. That document presented three options on how to address overcapacity problems when it came to aquatic programming at Fountain Park Pool.
Options included advanced registration for City residents, a cap on non-resident enrolment, and the implementation of a tiered fee structure for residents versus non-residents.
The report describes the demand for swimming lessons, especially from those living outside the City, as high, stating “[the] Aquatics programs continue to experience growth year over year…non-residents do represent a significant portion of the overall aquatic program registrations.”
The report also states St. Albert plans to “have strategic dialogue with regional neighbours in regards to potential partnerships with aquatic and other recreation facility development.”
Meanwhile, in Morinville, it continues to be frustrating for some families looking to find available swimming lessons in their preferred time-slots, especially with multiple kids—though it is not impossible. Being ready to get your name in quickly, when registration first becomes available, helps.
One Morinville resident, Kerri Roberts, discovered this when she successfully got her two children, aged seven and three, into lessons under the new rules at Fountain Park Pool.
“I was [still] able to get the classes we wanted,” remarked Roberts, who said she didn’t actually mind St. Albert residents getting a first chance to register. Though she did add, “one week later for a Town like Morinville, when we don’t have any other options in Town, I feel like we could have at least had the [chance] to register a few days later than St. Albert, but before Edmonton because they have so many other options.”
The ability to access swimming lessons for many Morinville residents can be a touchy subject. But, equally so, is the debate on whether the Town needs—or wants to pay for—a swimming pool of its own.
Morinville is currently in the process of figuring out its future recreation centre.
Officially, no final decisions have been made regarding the amenities that will make it into the building (which could be built in a phased approach or be built altogether, at one time). The Town has been quick to say, however, building a swimming pool seems unlikely in the near future.
Morinville’s Long Range Capital Plan (approved on Feb. 9, 2016) shows an “aquatic centre” isn’t being planned for until 2032, which is still 16 years away.
The planning and design process for the new recreation centre is currently on hold while a Needs Assessment is being conducted by a company called RC Strategies. They’re looking at recreation, as a whole, in the region.
The Town’s CAO, Andy Isbister, explained the Assessment results might be coming soon; “we expect that [the Needs Assessment] will be completed by the end of August and we anticipate it coming to Council in September.”
“Following a presentation to Council, the report is expected to be directed to the [Recreation Centre’s] Advisory Committee. This Committee will review the report in September and will assist in the direction that the project will take.”
Isbister also noted servicing of the rec centre land will likely commence shortly and could be completed as early as later this fall.
In 2015, the City of St. Albert registered 145,206 program participants at Fountain Park Pool, which was an increase of about 3,000 participants over the year before. The City estimates approximately 41 per cent of those registered in programs there are non-residents (though the report does not specify from which municipalities the non-residents reside).
The City also points out in the report, it and the Cities of Edmonton, Leduc, Fort Saskatchewan, Spruce Grove and Strathcona County, all experience high demand for their aquatic facilities and all are experiencing wait lists associated with programming.