The Kinsmen Sherbrook Pool and Rady JCC Fitness Centre’s pool are taking a look at the importance of community pools and how to make them a more accessible resource for community members.
“We want to make sure that the pool is open and viable and a welcoming place for people to play and work on their health and fitness,” Marianne Cerilli, current board member and previous chair of the board of directors for Friends of Sherbrook Pool (FOSP), says.
“I think the City of Winnipeg is realizing that they are in the business of recreation and that’s just not the bricks and mortar part.”
FOSP is a community group that works on community outreach and engagement. They have acted as a liaison between the city-owned Sherbrook Pool and the community since 1992. Over the past two years, they’ve worked on reshaping the way they collaborate with the public.
“We’ve been working to create a terms of reference for this collaborative programming, this partnership that we want to have, and it includes … like a matrix that will guide the city,” Cerilli says.
A survey that FOSP conducted found that the biggest barrier to public engagement was accessibility barriers such as cost to use the pool and transportation. But the survey also yielded an unexpected result.
“When we asked people about what are the barriers to using the pool ... one of the biggest things people said was that they didn’t have a friend to go with,” Cerilli says. “That’s the kind of thing where we can create programming where people have kind of a buddy to go with to get some exercise and participate in recreation.”
Both the Kinsmen Sherbrook Pool and the Rady JCC pool are working with these values of community input and meaningful engagement.
“Recreation is sometimes one of the most undervalued social services that are available in the community,” Gale Waxman, executive director of the Rady JCC fitness centre, says. “It provides an opportunity … for people to connect socially, (be) active, but they are also feeling like they’re a part of the community.”
Cerilli explains the disconnect between the city and the community visible in its approach in assessing what a functioning community resource looks like.
“If the pool isn’t being used at a level to generate revenue … it’s kind of seen as a money pit,” Cerilli says. “(Before FOSP) it’s been two solitudes, where the city does its own thing, and the community does its own thing.
Currently, the Rady JCC provides what they call scholarships, or financial aid, through the city to community members who face financial difficulties. The pool and related programs the Rady JCC provides are not member-exclusive and are open to the general public.
“If you come to the pool, it is such a wonderful example of all the great things about Winnipeg,” Waxman says. “You see all ages, all backgrounds, all abilities (and) all economic situations in the pool together.”