Over the past few weeks, our office has received several complaints and inquiries about the reservation system regarding aquafit programs at Ray Friel and François Dupuis recreation centres. I sympathize with residents' frustrations around the reduced capacities that impacted the availability of swimming activities and programs. Staff are aware of the high demand for pools and are doing everything they can to meet the needs of clients within the current COVID-19 restrictions. The demand for activities far outweighs the supply of available spaces and residents are often not successful in securing spaces in the activities that they would like.
There are two factors affecting the availability of swimming programs. First, the redeployment of full-time recreation staff to support the pandemic efforts in other departments. Many recreation, cultural, and facility services staff remain in critical roles, and although they are expected to return by December 31, there are not enough staff available to open all swimming pools and recreation centres. As staff who are reassigned to other roles such as supporting vaccination clinics and respite centers return to the Department, closed facilities will be brought back online as soon as possible. Once opening dates are available, they will be posted on the City of Ottawa website. The pool at the Walter Baker Complex opened Monday, August 30 and the pool at the Ray Friel Recreation Complex is anticipated to re-open in mid-October which will add further options for residents to access swimming sessions.
Next, the regulations associated with Step Three of the Provincial reopening plan. The regulations associated with swimming pools require capacities to be established that ensure individuals from different households can always maintain 2-meter physical distancing. Staff at each facility are working hard to maximize the number of programs they can offer within the approved framework. It is important to note that demand for aquatic programs includes swimming lessons, lifesaving programs, aquafit, lane swims, public swims and a range of aquatic sport teams. Staff recognize that offering a balance of these program types within capacity limitations means that available options may not meet some clients’ preferences for time and date.
Pool schedules recently changed moving into the fall season, resulting in a much higher demand for swimming activities than during the summer months. I've checked with the staff at the François Dupuis Recreation Centre and they have gone back to their fall/winter/spring schedule which corresponds with seasonal programming from previous years. There are several lane swims available on weekends that may suit your schedule or if there is another pool that suits your needs, I can inquire about any less attended options that may be available in the evening. The Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex in Orléans is accessible and also has some evening lane swim options available. As there are many City of Ottawa residents with disabilities allowing people to show up to a facility without booking is not feasible as it could impact the number of swimmers currently allowed under the current Provincial regulations. Staff are encouraging residents to use the cancellation feature in the reservation tool in the event they can't attend their booked session.
Recreation, cultural and facility services staff are working closely with Ottawa Public Health to monitor provincial communications for updates and changes to current regulations. Based on information provided by the Provincial Medical Officer of Health during media availabilities to the public, staff are preparing to remain in Step Three of the re-opening plan through the fall season. Should information and regulations change, staff will adapt to modify program offerings and operations as required.