'It's not to be elitist': Westmount will only let locals use its pool this summer, citing COVID-19
MONTREAL -- Montrealers can't be blamed lately for dreaming about getting back into public pools. Just don’t expect to do that in Westmount, which is limiting access to its pool this summer to residents only.
People who live in surrounding neighbourhoods weren’t happy to hear it.
“It's really hot, I'm pregnant and I have no access to the pool,” said St. Henri resident Zoe Fortier, who said she has happily paid to get access to the Westmount pool in past years.
But even paying for entry isn't an option this year.
“I need a Westmount card to have access to the reservation system,” she said. “And I don’t get why it's legally possible that a Westmount pool restricts access to the pool when it's partially publicly funded.”
Of the $40-million budget for the Westmount Recreation Centre, half was paid by federal and provincial funds. The other half came from donations and from Westmount taxes.
Westmount’s mayor, however, says that with the pandemic the pool needs to cut its capacity from 350 swimmers at a time to just 75, and this is one way to do it.
“We certainly have a big lineup of people trying to register from this community alone, to try to get into those 75 spots,” said Westmount Mayor Christine Smith.
“But safety is obviously the number-one driver right now.”
Some Westmount residents said they were on board with the strategy.
“It’s not to be elitist,” said a woman named Randy. “It's more a question of safety. And if there are a limited number of people in the pools, then the first choice should go to the residents of the community.”
Smith argues that surrounding neighbourhoods should simply open their own pools. Due to construction delays, St. Henri’s public outdoor pool has been fenced off for close to three years.
That pool is expected to reopen by mid-July, but for residents like Fortier, that doesn’t justify the decision to exclude people from the Westmount pool.
“It doesn’t change that it was publicly funded,” she said. When it comes to the safety concerns, “I think we could have the same prevention safety measures for non-residents."
The mayor said there’s just no other solution that seems as workable.
“It's a tough situation,” Smith said.