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A dry summer: Neighbourhood pool at risk of not opening as it waits for a federal grant

A neighbourhood pool in west London, Ont. may not be able to open this year because the federal funding it depends on every year to hire lifeguards has not come through.

It’s left pool users with a sinking feeling.

“We can’t open at this time, we’ve been advised not to open,” explained John Clack, the president of the Board of Directors at Forest Edge pool in the Westmount neighbourhood.

Clack said for as long as he remembers, Forest Edge has received a grant from the federal Canada Summer Jobs grant program every spring to hire lifeguards. He said they usually know by March, but so far this year they have yet to receive word on whether that annual grant will come through.

“We have not received any feedback on whether or not we’ve been approved of that, to date, so we are currently in a holding pattern,” said Clack.

“It’s very frustrating when you hear that for-profit organizations are getting this grant approved,” added Vice-President Jessica Lefebvre. “I think if there is delays there should be priorities to those in need and that depend on this grant.”

Sifton, the neighbourhood’s original developer, built the pool more than five decades ago. It has been operated by the neighbourhood ever since.

It currently has a membership of 150, including many family memberships.

Forest Edge Pool in Westmount, seen on June 9, 2023, may not open because a federal summer jobs grant to hire lifeguards has not come through. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)

According to Clack, its operating budget is as much as $75,000 per year. He said last year, more than half of that came from the federal grant.

The pool has hired six full-time student lifeguards for the summer, who are on standby. It also has two senior lifeguards and a number of junior lifeguards.

Members see it as much more than just a place to swim.

“I think it’s absolutely essential,” said long time neighbour and Forest Edge pool member Pia O’Leary. “First of all, it binds us as a community. We have things in the evening, like they have movie nights. They have game days for the kids.”

Parent Rachel Hovius said she grew up at the pool, and now her children use it, “So my children learn how to swim here now, they spend their summers here, and again, it’s just a hub for the community.”

CTV News reached out to London West Liberal MP Arielle Kayabaga to find out what’s happening with Forest Edge’s grant application.

Neither she nor her office has responded at the time of this article’s publication.

“Right now no word,” said an exasperated Clack. Top Stories

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