Crofton Outdoor Pool will be closed this summer because no lifeguards will be on duty during the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

No lifeguards this summer for some popular Island swimming spots, no swimming at all for others

Fears of risk to health and safety during COVID-19 pandemic partly to blame

COVID-19 has closed at least two outdoor pools on the Island and reduced public safety measures at two others.

Lifeguards will not be at Arbutus Park in Youbou, Fuller Lake Park in Chemainus this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Crofton Outdoor Pool, meanwhile, cannot operate without a lifeguard so it will not open for the summer season. And Port McNeill’s outdoor swimming pool will not be opening this summer either.

A press release from the Cowichan Valley Regional District said The Lifesaving Society, in conjunction with WorkSafe BC and the BC Recreation and Parks Association, is developing training protocols for lifeguards for rescue training, first aid, and use of personal protective equipment during the health crisis.

These protocols would need to be met in order for lifeguards to be present at any indoor or outdoor swimming location. Even if these protocols were finalized, the Crofton pool would not open in time for summer because it would take a considerable amount of time to hire and train staff on the increased guidelines for public health and safety.

In the absence of supervision by certified lifeguards, North Cowichan and the CVRD remind the public that if they are heading to outdoor beaches to swim, they must maintain active and vigilant supervision of children and swimmers in their care. The use of life jackets is recommended.

“These decisions have been difficult,” said North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring.

“We recognize how important the pool is to parents in Crofton. However, the timelines simply don’t work for that facility. As for the decision not to have lifeguards at Fuller Lake, we’ve had to take a proactive role in protecting our staff as we continue to deal with COVID-19. I want to remind parents to take extra care in supervising their children while using Fuller Lake Park this summer.”

After much debate, Port McNeill council made the tough decision to keep the pool closed, partly because of the COVID-19 situation and partly because of other issues. Instead of running the pool during the summer months, it will instead be doing “a major mechanical upgrade.

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom stated that council’s decision to close the pool this summer was a difficult one.

“With COVID-19 guidelines changing continually we were unsure if we would be able to safely open the pool and if so, for what length of time. During budget discussions, the uncertainty of tax revenue arose. We recognized there would be cost savings and an opportunity to do much needed major infrastructure upgrades, allowing us to preserve a treasured asset.”

— with a file from Tyson Whitney

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