Efforts to lobby for Winagami wading pool fail

Richard Froese
South Peace News

The ever-popular wading pool at Winagami Lake Provincial Park is history.

After pleas by local municipal leaders, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the provincial government to sink the aging pool.

Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon stated the news in a letter to Village of Donnelly Mayor Myrna Lanctot, Town of McLennan Mayor Michele Fournier and Big Lakes County Reeve Richard Simard.

“Given the unprecedented economic challenges due to COVID-19 and the Government of Alberta’s promise to get Alberta’s finances in order, the wading pool will not reopen,” Nixon writes in a letter June 10.

“Environment and Parks assessed options to either replace or repair the wading pool and based on internal research, as well as consultation with third- party contractors, the cost of either option is unfeasible.”

Leading the lobby efforts that started in June 2019, Lanctot says she is “very disappointed” in the minister who blames COVID-19 for pulling the plug on the pool project.

“Our request to fix the pool was made before COVID-19,” she says.

“So, is COVID-19 a valid reason to stop this project from getting the funding to rebuild the wading pool?”

She suggests a temporary upgrade would be reasonable.

“With travel restrictions due to COVID-19, our parks will get used more than ever,” Lanctot says.

She says rural and northern Alberta communities are getting short-changed again from government.

“It saddens me as rural Alberta is where the most substantial revenue industries, such as agriculture, forestry and oil and gas, come from, revenue funding seems to get put into larger urban centres like Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer instead of rural regions,” Lanctot says.

“It also feels less often to happen in northern rural areas like ours.”

The Donnelly mayor says the community worked hard 30 years ago to get a wading pool that replaced a beach on the lake.

“Residents and users were happy to receive this option for young children to once again have a water play area to enjoy,” Lanctot says.

Simard echoes Lanc- tot’s response.

“We are disappointed to hear that the government will not replace or repair the pool at Winagami Provincial Park,” Simard says.

“It is a big attraction for not only residents but visitors to Big Lakes County.”

He is happy the government is willing to work with local communities on a new project.

“I think it’s positive to see the government working with the community and seeking public input,” he says.

Users and the community will be invited to plan a future project with the government.

“In 2021, Alberta Parks intends to engage with stakeholders and the local community on non-water-based recreation options to replace the pool,” Nixon says.

He requests that a meeting be held with municipal representatives later in summer with Mike Fernandez, assistant deputy minister of parks operations.

Nixon recognizes the pool is nearly 30 years old and been popular for families.

“I understand the facility is at the end of its life cycle and closed for safety reasons after it was vandalized in 2018,” Nixon says.

“The Government of Alberta strives to achieve its environmental objectives while promoting our economy for current and future generations.”

Lanctot launched the efforts to lobby the government with local support in a letter to the minister in 2019 dated June 13.

Since that time, local council leaders discussed the issue with government at the fall convention of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA).

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