New C.G. Brown Pool on parks priority list

Reegan O
Reegan O'Gorman heads out into the gloom on Burnaby Lake Tuesday. He's a player with Canada's national rugby team development program but after being sidelined by concussions, he's working with rowing talent identification coach Ben Rutledge to channel his athletic ability in a new direction. He's passing by the rowing pavilion, which is one of the projects the city of Burnaby says is due for replacement.

Planning could begin this year for a new C.G. Brown Pool to replace the aging facility at Kensington Avenue and Sprott Street.

Burnaby's parks and recreation director Dave Ellenwood stressed that the city is still working on its capital plan for 2014, and projects have yet to be discussed with council which has the final say, but replacing the pool is one of its top priorities.

C.G. Brown is more than 50 years old and is now costing more and more for the city to maintain, said Ellenwood, noting "50 years is a pretty good life for a pool."

The project is estimated to cost about $28 million, with the first few hundred thousand dollars expected to be spent later this year on a feasibility study looking at what the city's options are and what the community wants to see built.

The demand is there for the pool to be replaced, Ellenwood said. As for what form it should take, one option being considered is a 50-metre-long, competitive-oriented facility with a leisure component.

As part of Burnaby Lake Sports Complex, "it's a sports precinct and it's a great location to host a lot of sporting events, which means that we're going to capitalize on that."

Eileen Dailly Pool is also proposed for some improvements, mainly to its often busy entrance area to relieve crowding and to replace its leisure components.

When it was built in the 1980s, "it was cutting edge at the time and it proved to be very popular," but those leisure elements have since become somewhat dated, he said.

A longer-term project for the parks department is a proposed replacement of the Burnaby Lake Rowing Pavilion, which could undergo a feasibility study this year.

Built in the late 1970s, the pavilion itself is in relatively good condition, but "we have to get rid of the grandstand … it's been condemned and blocked off," he said. New spectator seating is in the plans, so the study will also look at what sort of facility is needed to replace the existing building which is also starting to require increasing  maintenance.

With completion of the lake's dredging a few years ago, the rowing community wants to be able to host larger events such as international and national competitions.

But it's not just the rowing community that has a keen interest in the project. In addition to the Burnaby Lake Rowing Club and Rowing Canada, the city is also working with the Swinging Singles Square Dancing Club, a longtime user of the pavilion.

Ellenwood said the dance club has even started a building fund to help with the building's redevelopment. The fund sits at about $400,000, that the club has committed on condition they'll be able to continue using the new facility.

"I think the biggest hurdle there is … the city is not going to do this ourselves."

While the square dancers and rowing community are willing to step up, what's needed is money from the federal government and national sport organizations.

He noted Ottawa did not contribute to the dredging project. "They said if you have a bricks-and-mortar project we'll consider it. Well, this is a bricks-and-mortar project."

In the meantime, the feasibility study can go ahead so city hall is ready when the necessary funding falls into place.

Any project will also have to use the same footprint as the existing building, he noted.

"The bottom line is we're not going to affect the environmental sensitivity with this project … I think rowing continues to be a very compatible activity with the environmental considerations around the lake."

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