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Lifeguard shortage impacts West Kootenay aquatic centre

Trail aquatic centre hours reduced 19 hours per week for the pools and 10 hours for fitness centre

The Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre (TALC) won’t be returning to pre-pandemic hours any time soon.

The impact of COVID-19 on B.C. parks and recreation departments continues to be felt by communities across the province.

After being closed for more than six months, TALC reopened and provided limited services over the past year.

However, the inability to offer advanced lifesaving certification has created an extreme shortage of lifeguards throughout the province.

“We knew there was probably going to be a long term impact and we’re seeing it now,” said parks and recreation director Trisha Davison at the governance and operations committee (GOC) meeting Aug. 16.

“The fragility of lifeguarding in the aquatic world pre-pandemic already existed, and now it is seemingly exponentially more challenging.”

Prior to the recent announcement that reinstated COVID restrictions, Davison anticipated a move to Step 4 of the BC Restart plan in September, and that residents would expect full services from TALC.

“I think they (residents) are happy with what we’ve done, but I do think there will be some concerns because there is high public expectation that we’re going to go back to full levels of normalcy come the fall, and unfortunately in this particular building that is going to be a challenge,” Davison said.

TALC is just beginning to offer advanced lifesaving courses, yet have been unable to fill the necessary positions on the pool deck, especially when summer employees are returning to post-secondary studies.

As a result, TALC’s fall operating hours will be reduced from pre-pandemic levels by 19 hours per week for the pools and 10 hours per week for the fitness centre, depending on staff resources.

“It’s disheartening to see and it was really unfortunate that the pandemic has hit that particular service because its going to take some time to recover from it,” said Davison.

Trail Parks and Rec will continue to provide all their programs and services, however, certain classes or group activities may be reduced or limited to certain days and times, and also dependent on current Interior Health restrictions.

“Through the whole pandemic the parks and rec department has been hardest hit and the most complex to manage,” said Mayor Lisa Pasin.

“And I think this just shows again what you and your department are going through every single day with the pivoting and the changes, and as much as we all hope things get back to normal, with the Delta variant right now, there’s no assurance Sept. 7 that will be open at all.”

Council passed the recommendation to limit fall hours to 63 hours per week for pools and 84 hours per week for the Fitness Centre.

According to the report, recommended pool hours will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 6 a.m. to noon and 3 to 8 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fitness Centre will run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.,Monday to Friday, Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Read: Trail aquatic centre shuts down fitness classes and courts

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Jim Bailey

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