At a recent best practices meeting in Castlegar, we got the opportunity to share ideas and initiatives with colleagues in leisure services and capitalize on successes from their operations. Attending this last one were our sister operations of Castlegar, Nelson, Salmo and Slocan Valley, as well as other partners in leisure services, including Trail, Beaver Valley and Rossland, so you can imagine the wealth of knowledge and expertise brought together in one room. It always turns out mostly everyone has similar issues with customer service, leisure guide production, program maintenance, operational issues — all aspects of the service, but saying that, there can be innovative ways of solving issues coming out of a different facility.
I’m not sure if you have been following the issue with Nelson aquatic centre, but it somewhat mirrors circumstances we had run into here with the arena repair project. Back at the end of January, they had some ceiling tiles fall into their pool from the suspended ceiling (similar to what you might see in an office building). They immediately shut the pool down for safety and have begun the long journey of repairs, which started with a planning process and schedule to make things right. They had to go through a hazardous materials assessment and as it turned out, involved dealing with paint that contained lead on the roof trusses. They are currently at the stage where all the pools are drained, scaffolding set up to access the entire ceiling area (no small feat as you are setting up in pools and decks with sloping sides and edges) and sandblasting has begun. Just to keep things interesting, all the sand and paint chips from the process have to be contained and relocated after the process — all on top of scaffolding 15 or 20 feet in the air.
Unfortunately, the impact to staff and public who would use or work at the facility is no small thing but they are working through the project carefully and thoughtfully. As we found in the arena project or even the facility enhancement project, anytime you start digging into an older building, there are always surprises and items you simply did not know about let alone plan for. As with everything, there are ripple effects and currently the pool at Castlegar is feeling the impact of the situation at Nelson through a huge increase in numbers as patrons travel to the closest pool in the area for lessons, recreational and organized swimming. It’s not a bad thing, but there is concern for the regulars who now find themselves in a significantly more crowded situation — like having your cousins come and live with you while their house gets built.
As with everything, this too will pass and both facilities will soon be back on stream in their regular efficient manner while other facilities might be dealing with a staffing issue or infrastructure problem elsewhere. Fortunately, through local means such as best practices and regional BC Recreation and Parks Association meetings right through to the provincial and national parks and recreation associations that have the decades of experience on a solid social foundation, we have the resources to take on the challenges faced through changing times and demographics.
Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.