The Langley Advance Times recently introduced this new weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.
Each member of council was asked the same question: Should every neighbourhood in Langley Township have its own public pool?
Mayor Jack Froese
A. I believe that everyone in the Township of Langley should have access to excellent recreation activities, including aquatic.
The Township has three distinct aquatic facilities that serve the every community.
As the Township grows, the need for more recreational facilities, including aquatic, will also grow. When new aquatic facilities are added, they will need to be placed in areas that serve everyone in the Township.
Councillor Petrina Arnason
A. Recreation facilities in the Township of Langley play a critical role in support of our “great place to live, work, and play” motto.
As the Township of Langley is comprised of a number of urban areas, with the majority of the population centralized there, the location of recreation facilities and swimming pools are carefully calibrated in order to maximize usage and accessibility for our residents.
Policy considerations include the over-all cost to develop and cooperate each pool or aquatic facility, co-Iocation options populations served, over-all demographic trends, as well as the rational provision of overlapping service provided to other adjoining local populations.
This assessment also considers providing different types of pool and water focussed recreation usages in each of our communities.
These currently include an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool in Walnut Grove at the WGCC, an indoor leisure pool in Murrayville at the W.C. Blair facility, an outdoor pool and enhanced water park at the ACUCC in Aldergrove, as well as spray parks in the communities of Willoughby, Aldergrove, Brookswood, Walnut Grove, and Murrayville.
Township council has also recently set direction towards the demolition of the aging outdoor pool facility in Fort Langley and the installation of a new spray park, in addition to continuing to examine a number of options with respect to on-going discussions regarding recreational options for the community of Fort Langley – including the construction of a modern outdoor pool replacement facility within Fort Langley in the future.
Councillor David Davis
A. No, I don’t think every neighbourhood in the TOL [Township] needs a pool.
I think that we are very lucky to have the three recreational facilities that we have.
I think this question is stemmed because of the Fort Langley pool concerns, and that pool should remain in operation as a outdoor community pool.
Councillor Steve Ferguson
A. Firstly I have to say that I am a pool/recreation user and have had passes for several years.
I strongly believe in healthy lifestyles, and hence pools and fitness centres (along with libraries and seniors centres) play an integral part of our Langley neighbourhoods.
Public pools should be dispersed throughout Langley Township areas where appropriate and based on what our taxpayers can afford.
Not every resident (unlike myself) go to pools, for various reasons, and hence they draw huge deficits on our tax base.
The Township has the W.C. Blair pool, the Walnut Grove pool, and our new Aldergrove pool.
I believe these pools, along with recreation centres, libraries, ice rinks, community centres, and other facilities – like our Langley Events Centre (LEC) – serve our neighbourhoods very well.
Now the Fort Langley outdoor pool should be viewed differently.
My position was (and still is) to work with the residents to come up with positive viable solution.
1. Keep and repair the pool
2. Provide an alternative facility based on costs and useable land area
3. Provide activities for children of varying ages (toddlers to teens)
Recreation and healthy living is important!
Councillor Margaret Kunst
A. We definitely need more pools in Langley as our communities are growing.
I would love to say yes to every neighbourhood having its own public pool, but the challenge is finding a way to pay for those pools.
Another question to ask is what constitutes a neighbourhood I suppose.
With several communities in the Township of Langley, I think that we need to look at the community as a whole and determine where the pools will be as it is the Township of Langley taxpayer who will be paying for those pools.
Some communities/neighborhoods definitely need another swimming pool!
Swimming pools are a big part of the recreation and culture people value here in the TOL and play a role in why some people move and desire to raise their families here.
I look forward to working together to find ways to support this amenity and others in the Township of Langley.
Councillor Bob Long
A. By my count, we have at least 13 neighbourhoods in the Township of Langley, so a swimming pool in each is just not realistic.
This question is likely posed because of the closure of the Fort Langley pool two years ago due to age and deficiencies, a decline in usage (down 21 per cent in 2018 probably due to its small size), the site challenges, and costs of replacement – and most certainly sparked by the controversies that have ensued when some on council wanted to make it a public issue.
A future question that the Langley-Advance Times could ask municipal officials is: how could council work better together to address the challenges, needs, and wants for the citizens they serve?
..back to the question…
I think council should be planning for a recreation centre for Brookswood.
Councillor Kim Richter
A. It depends on the definition of “neighbourhood.”
If “neighbourhood” means every block of development in the Township with a population under 1,000 people, then ‘No.’ I do not support a public pool in every neighbourhood because that would become prohibitively expensive for the taxpayers.
On the other hand, if “neighbourhood” means one of the seven recognized communities that formally constitute the Township of Langley – being a ‘Community of Communities’ that is, Aldergrove, Brookswood/Fernridge, Fort Langley, Murrayville, Rural Area, Walnut Grove, and Willoughby/Willowbrook – then I could support a public pool in each community provided:
a) There is a population base and usage pattern that would support a public pool without an extensive property tax subsidy or increase; and
b) Each pool would provide a different type of focus or area of specialization.
Right now our pools are each different.
Aldergrove has a water park. Walnut Grove has a 50-metre pool. Murrayville has warmer water and a focus on rehabilitation programs.
This difference provides all Township residents with the “best bang for their buck,” because of the variety of water/pool experiences to choose from.
I do support Fort Langley getting a replacement outdoor pool similar to what they already have and what they clearly want.
I also support a future pool for Willoughby/Willowbrook and Brookswood/Fernridge as their population grows.
For more information and clarification, please contact me on social media or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor Blair Whitmarsh
A. Langley is a growing community and we will have to have more recreational facilities to accommodate our needs.
It is important that we view the Township as a whole and provide facilities that best suit our growing needs.
It is clear that we will need more aquatic facilities in the future.Determining the best location for new aquatic facilities will be important as we want to make them as accessible as possible.
Councillor Eric Woodward
A. No, not really. Langley has about 15-20 distinct neighbourhoods, and we certainly don’t need this many public pools.
The issue we are having with pools and our other aging recreation facilities is a lack of leadership and strategic financial planning for the future.
We saw this loud and clear with the flawed process and decision to remove the Fort Langley outdoor pool. This was actually done two years ago, behind closed doors, without any public input whatsoever.
We should never decide on recreation facilities behind closed doors. The public deserves better than that.
If 80 per cent of the public want something already in place to remain, then we need to figure it out.
If some on council truly wanted to, while voting to remove it, then why not propose something over two years ago when it was done behind closed doors?
And some members of the public only wanted some more time to come forward with options. This too was voted down. Why?
Some on council will go on about committees for pools, needing something to say come election time. We have seen this playbook before in Aldergrove, with committees that went on for years with the pool finally ending up costing twice as much.
Let’s expect better than this.
Council needs to truly serve the public. We truly need to find a better way, with a balance of leadership, financial management, and public input. This is a balance we have not yet found.
Exhibit A: The Fort Langley outdoor pool.
Next week’s Langley trustees are being asked: Should year-round schooling options be expanded in Langley?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.