The City of New Westminster is going to extra lengths to ensure its new pool facility is inclusive as possible.
Planning for the future New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre project is now in the design phase. Along with open houses and an online survey open to everyone, this phase included urban Indigenous engagement, engagement with the Muslim community and the formation of an advisory panel regarding privacy swims.
A staff report on the latest round of public engagement states that the desire for privacy swims has been a reoccurring theme, which led to the formation of the advisory panel. Following a meeting of the advisory panel, comprised of members of the LGBTQ and Muslim communities, a meeting was held with the Tri-City Muslim community, who provided the city with a report that outlined the importance of privacy swims for Muslim women.
“Privacy swims are of relevance as related to cultural/religious practices of some members of the community that dictate that genders dress modestly to not draw attention to themselves, especially around those of the opposite gender outside of their immediate family,” said the report. “It was also identified through the engagement process that privacy swims are important to members of the LGBTQ community, especially for transgender and non-binary individuals who wish to participate in aquatic activities in a safe and inclusive environment, without the fear of discrimination based on their gender identity.”
Ali Kenyon, an associate with HCMA Architecture + Design, said engagement with the Muslim community has found there’s interest in privacy swims in the leisure pool and significant interest in privacy fitness areas.
The City of New Westminster hired Castlemain Group earlier this year to develop and implement a strategy to engage with urban Indigenous peoples in New Westminster about the future New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre. Main themes through this engagement included: providing culturally relevant spaces (for things such as smudging ceremonies) and appropriate representation of Indigenous culture; creating safe and welcoming spaces; and decreasing barriers to access.
Kenyon said it’s intended that these ideas will become part of the building’s design.
“There is certainly going to be a privacy swim sensitivity in the design, no doubt about that,” she said. “There are lots of options that are available to us and those will all have cost implications. That is the stage we are at now. The intent is to offer flexibility for privacy swim either way – it’s just exactly what technique we use to get there that’s a question at the moment.”
Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said the project’s design is currently out for detailed costing through a quantity surveyor.
Steve Kellock, senior manager of recreation for the City of New Westminster, said the openness of the city’s two outdoor pools and the single 67-metre tank at Canada Games Pool don’t lend themselves to the inclusion of privacy swims at this time. He said the current design of the future aquatic centre includes two pools – a 50-metre lane swimming pool and a leisure pool, which provides opportunities for creating unique spaces that consider privacy issues.
In terms of overall community input, Kenyon said the most common concerns expressed in the latest round of engagement were about the relocation of the recycling facility, traffic and parking, and access to existing facilities during construction.