FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Multiple ideas on the future of the North Peace Leisure pool were brought up during an open house on Tuesday.

The open house was hosted by the City of Fort St. John and the Peace River Regional District, following discussions on the facility dating back to 2018.

Residents brought up several ideas for what they’d like to see for the pool.

Willy Couch mentions that she thinks the community is growing, so having a larger pool area would be beneficial.

Specifically, Couch wants to see a regulation lap pool either 8 or 12 lanes wide.

Jarrod Bell echoed this statement but emphasized his desire for a place for the whole family to enjoy and that he would like to see courts for “racquet sports” in the possible multiplex.

Mayor Lori Ackerman attended the open house regarding the pool, expressing that she is aware of the need for a replacement and a place for families to gather.

“What we’ve heard is that it needs to be replaced, and when it’s replaced, it needs to be adequate and appropriate for not only our community but the demographics within our community,” Mayor Ackerman said.

“It needs to provide services for not only all age groups but all abilities within those ages. It needs to be something that can be multi-use and enables a family to be engaged in an activity or activities that will keep them active year-round.”

Jessica McDonald from HCMA Architecture + Design, one of the consults involved in the feasibility study, explained how this open house worked.

“What we’re doing is giving everyone who comes five stickers, and you can stick all of them [in one spot] if there’s only one thing you really want, but essentially it’s forcing you to choose what your priorities are,” she said.

This event follows a study they initially did in 2018, but both entities want to confirm or possibly change what was discovered to create a plan moving forward.

The 2018 study had a series of pop-up events at various functions throughout the summer and received a lot of feedback from the community.

“This is our loop back. Did we hear right? This is what we think we understood what you want, is it right?” said McDonald.

She adds that the online survey opened Tuesday and will run until July 7th and includes more detailed questions.

“We’ll be working with the steering committee, which is elected officials, board and council members, to come up with a recommendations report for what a new facility should be,” she said.

Councillor Lilia Hansen says that what was important to people five years ago might not be important anymore.

“This is a regional district leisure pool, and working with our partners. We’re trying to come to an agreement with what does our community collective want? What can we do together on that? And also prioritizing what is important to our community,” she continued.

Hansen says she has been personally reaching out to people and encouraging them to visit the open house, take the online survey, attend the virtual open house, and has even offered to bring their ideas to the board herself.

“Not everybody reads social media or the paper or listens to the radio. We’re trying to make sure we connect on whatever level we can, even if it means ‘Let’s go for coffee and tell me what your concerns are, ideas are,'” Hansen said.

Hansen mentions that she’d heard community members would like to have less competition for pool space.

“Whether it’s lessons in the swim club, or if there is a big competition going on, we can have one side open as well for the community,” she explained.

Councillor Hansen also mentioned the possibility of a multiplex, including a field house and gymnasium space.

She’d personally like to see a viewing area in a new space.

“As a parent, I would come with my kids down here, and it’d be nice that I get to stay as the kids are doing [their] activities, and [I] get to visit other moms,” she said.

The Peace River Regional District hopes to finish the information collection phase on the North Peace Leisure Pool by early 2023.

To participate in the online survey, attend the virtual open house or for more information, visit the Have Your Say website.

Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca. Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.