Aldergrove Lake pool dries up

Jill Scott and Colten Myers wallow in the sun and sand at Aldergrove Lake last August during a heat wave. Metro Vancouver has decided to close down one of the more popular summer attractions due to health concerns.

Jill Scott and Colten Myers wallow in the sun and sand at Aldergrove Lake last August during a heat wave. Metro Vancouver has decided to close down one of the more popular summer attractions due to health concerns.

One of the community’s most popular summer attractions is closing down.

As much a tradition as an attraction, the swimming pool lake at Aldergrove Lake Park will not reopen after Metro Vancouver Parks said it was forced to comply with new health regulations.

“The pool cannot be upgraded and would need to be completely redesigned and rebuilt to meet current standards,” Metro Vancouver parks committee chairman Gayle Martin said on Thursday.

“It would need to be relocated to address environmental concerns,” added Martin, a Langley City councillor.

Under B.C. Public Health Act regulations that came into effect last October, the swimming facility at Aldergrove Lake Park meets the definition of a public swimming pool and would require an operating permit to reopen.

Metro Van has been unable to obtain a permit, and so the pool, a man-made lake built more than 50 years ago, will not be accessible for swimmers when the warm weather finally arrives.

“The regulations are much different now than they were in the 1960s when the swimming facility was first built,” Martin said.

“We cannot meet the minimum requirements under the new rules, given the facility’s current design and condition.”

The closure “is a natural process of aging,” she said.

Metro Vancouver’s preventative maintenance and operating procedures allowed the facility to keep going as long as possible “and now we’ve reached the end of its functional life,” Martin added.

Martin’s family is among thousands who have enjoyed the pool-like lake which, with its sandy beach, gave the sense of the seaside.

“My son and I spent time there every summer,” Martin said. “It’s a wonderful facility.”

The beach, picnic areas, trails and washrooms will remain, but Metro Van Parks hasn’t said yet said what it will do with the area occupied by the pool.

The public will have the opportunity to have its say on the future of the 280 hectare Aldergrove Lake Regional Park during the park management plan public consultation process that will begin in June.

The process “will explore other opportunities and that leaves the door wide open,” Martin said.

Major stumbling blocks to building a similar facility are cost and the lack of water in the area. There is no municipal water in the area; the water in the lake came from a well.

There was consternation in the community when it became clear last summer that the facility was in jeopardy.

“Lots of families are concerned because they do view this as a summer daytime activity location,” Township Councillor Charlie Fox said.

“It’s a place that families can go for free, have a picnic, enjoy the water-based activities . . . and really have a good day out relatively close to the community,” Fox said, adding that “amazingly enough” the lake is a hit with young people.

“They really feel a sense of ownership and a sense of connectivity with Aldergrove Lake Park,” he said last summer.

Fox said on Thursday that he and mayors Rick Green and Peter Fassbender had been meeting with Metro Parks board and staff members on the issue over recent weeks and had been privy to the in-camera report delivered to the board on March 18.

“I wasn’t surprised but it’s extremely disappointing,” said Fox.

“Not only is it a loss of a community asset, it’s a loss of a Metro Parks asset. On the other hand, I understand the new regulations for public pools that came out in October of 2010 meant the lake was a significant liability. The lake met virtually none of these new criteria.”

One of the new rules calls for a six hour turnover for filtration of the water, and the existing system at the lake has a 49 hour turnover.

“And that’s just one of the new rules, so even putting an expensive new filtration system in place would just be putting a Band-Aid on a bigger problem,” said Fox. “It was only a matter of time before someone would get hurt.”

Fox said that “the upside is that Metro Parks staff is committed to getting public input on what the park should become. People should give serious thought to constructive ideas for those meetings, starting in June.”

Fox added that the Township is still pursuing acquisition of the former Aldergrove Elementary site from the provincial education ministry for a new public swimming pool and other community amenities. It’s been an uphill struggle dealing with the ministry bureaucracy, said Fox, “but we’re not going to give up.”

— with files from Kurt Langmann