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News 2012


From the August 2012 Newsletter:

Wading pool blues

A snapshot: On July 24, a sunny hot Tuesday, at 1.30 pm, there were 27 kids splashing in the MacGregor wading pool, with another ten at the crafts table or the dress-up area. Two more kids were watering the gardens. At 1.35, there were three kids in the Campbell Park wading pool. At 1.40, there were two kids in the Carlton Park wading pool. At 1.45 there was no one in the splash pad at Perth Park, but two kids were in the playground. At 2.05 pm, there were 42 kids in the Dufferin Grove wading pool with another 83 playing nearby in the sandpit or the playground, or eating a snack from the playground café.

All of these wading pools, no matter what their attendance, are assigned the same number and kind of staff – two teenagers from Central Aquatics. Gone are the days when the wading pool staff at Dufferin Grove were integrated with the many summer activities going on near the pool. Now the young staff are told that they have nothing to do with the rest of the park activities. They are to take direction only from their central coordinator. During July, the Aquatics-mandated hour-long lunch break, for one staff at a time, meant that for two hours every mid-day, there was only one wading pool attendant no matter how many children were in the pool. (Happily, wading pools are usually surrounded by parents and camp counsellors, who pay attention as well.)

At MacGregor wading pool, a deal was made to let one of the two wading pool attendants be from the recreation staff, to give the park the benefit of more mature staff with local knowledge of the park users. But the central pool coordinators said the “crossover” staff weren’t good enough, and they tried repeatedly to get the recreation staff replaced by the teenage aquatics staff. At Dufferin Grove, the wading pool staff justified disruptive wading pool routines by misrepresenting them as legal requirements. The young staff found reasons not even to sweep the sand away from the pool edges, nor to help out in other ways. On cloudy or rainy days, two staff were directed to stay sitting beside the pool long after few or no kids were in the pool. Paying two staff to sit by an empty pool on bad-weather days means that there is no budget to extend the wading pool time for even one hour on hot days.

An appeal from CELOS to Councillor Ana Bailao’s office brought this response: “I am pleased to hear from Management Staff that an orientation session took place in Dufferin Grove, providing understanding of park programs to part-time, seasonal wading pool staff. I am disappointed, however, that levels of collaboration between recreation and wading pool staff have not met your expectations. I will follow-up on my original request by once again contacting the Director of Community Recreation; encouraging more collaboration.”

A few changes were made, but the basic problem of centralization remains, painful to witness. The rinks are next, this winter. This can’t be remedied without a parks conservancy.

From the July 2012 Newsletter:

Wading pools:

The city’s one-size-fits-all aquatics structure continues to undermine the popular locally-based wading pool programs that have grown up in Dufferin Grove and MacGregor Park over many years. In addition, funds that used to be available for extended wading pool openings during heat alert days have been made scarcer because of the cost of numerous, citywide, redundant training sessions with little practical relation to summer programs or wading pools. Funds are also diverted to buy over-the-top “safety” equipment. All wading pool staff are required to put on whole-body hazard suits, with face-guard helmets and steel-toed boots, to add a dose of chlorine to the wading pool eight times a day. The money spent to buy such needless heavy-duty equipment further reduces the amount available for keeping the pools open longer during very hot weather.

The traditional staff-run poolside kids’ activities have disappeared from most wading pools, as young staff are directed to focus entirely on risk – risk of chlorine explosions, risk of abusive parents who must be observed and reported to Children’s Aid, risk of possible pedophiles taking photos.

Councillor Ana Bailao attempted to get Aquatics management to restore some local integration of Ward 18 wading pool staffing with the other park programs. There were a number of meetings, which took a lot of time. But in the end, Aquatics management decided that one size fits all and the Ward 18 wading pools would operate exactly like all the others.

Why the Conservancy is needed for the Ward 18 parks in summer: wading pools have no legal requirements for certified supervision with a predominantly “compliance” focus. In some places wading pools are even run by parent volunteers. That leaves room for the Conservancy to return the five Ward 18 wading pools to being lively family meeting places, with wading pool staffing integrated into other park activities, and some mature staff as well as younger ones, all summer long. The wading pools can also return to being reliable cooling stations extending into the evening on hot-weather days.

Starting now: with lots of pressure from park users and also from Councillor Ana Bailao, the wading pools at Dufferin Grove and at MacGregor Park have been allowed to stay open an hour later on days when the temperature is 29 or hotter. The timers at the Perth splash pad have been reset to keep the water on longer. Good progress! The new “Friends of McCormick Park” group has asked if their pool can have heat extensions too. Why not?

From the June 2012 Newsletter:

The wading pool working group: This is a new group, now inviting members. If your family uses any of the wading pools in Ward 18 (Dufferin Grove, MacGregor, Campbell, Dovercourt, and Carlton parks), you should consider joining this group. Everyone welcome!

Background: In 2006, Parks, Forestry and Recreation took the wading pools away from local recreation supervisors and centralized them. The busy wading pool at Dufferin Grove was not immediately restructured – instead, the aquatics supervisor allowed that pool to be “sub-contracted” to the program staff so that it would remain integrated with the other park activities.

Dufferin Grove wading pool staff were finally completely dis-embedded from the other Dufferin Grove program staffing in the summer of 2011. This meant no more local staff, and great inconsistency, with many days being staffed by temporary teenage relief staff. These young wading pool attendants were resistant to even doing traditional activities like crafts at poolside. The story was the same at MacGregor Park. And if the experienced program staff wanted to ask one of the new wading pool attendants to help with other poolside activities, they could not approach them directly but had to contact their external supervisors for permission. The external supervisors were not always reachable.

This year, CELOS asked Aquatics management to allow the staff at Dufferin and MacGregor wading pools to be re-integrated. In a letter to 'Recreation director Janie Romoff, Ward 18 councillor Ana Bailao supported this request. There have been several meetings, but little progress so far.

Many wading pool users noticed last summer that the wading pool was staffed more like other city pools, by youth who often seemed bored and uncommunicative, and who didn’t know the park or the people. The wading pool working group can help stop the deterioration.

Wading pool working group: what members can do.

1. get on the wading pool e-list or read the playground bulletin boards. This allows members to keep abreast of the updates on the wading pool situation, so that they can tell other users and – if needed – contact Ward 18 City Councillor Ana Bailao for help -- and/or

2. monitor conditions at Ward 18 wading pools and report problems to onsite program liaison staff (for Dufferin, MacGregor, and Campbell wading pools). There will also be a Facebook group for such posts -- and/or

3. work alongside park program staff to enrich poolside programming, for instance by getting water toys at garage sales, or offering (or supporting) poolside activities like storytelling, clay sculpture, games, etc. -- and/or

4. Work together with program staff to give direct, steadying feedback to centrally-deployed wading pool attendants, introducing them to local users and encouraging them to get more involved.

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