PARRSBORO – Learning to swim is hard for some kids. It can be even harder when there’s no community access to a pool.
“Everyone in Parrsboro wants a pool,” said that town’s recreation and physical activities co-ordinator, Tissy Bolivar.
Pools exist in the community, but they’re privately owned. Most are aboveground affairs, she said. But the co-ordinator said she’s not aware of an inexpensive way to open a pool for the public in Parrsboro.
“If there is, I haven’t found it yet.”
Price is a factor in other communities, too.
“(They’re) super expensive to maintain,” said Corey Skinner, who has Bolivar’s job in Oxford.
Swimming does happen in his community, though, at least in the summer. The Cumberland YMCA teaches swimming lessons at Salt Lake. Skinner said there’s a dock kids jump from, and on sunny days 20 or more people will be enjoying the water. Off-season, though, “(it’s) pretty much left up to parents,” he said.
Laura Coleman, Cumberland YMCA’s aquatics manager, said the Lions are partners in the Oxford lessons, keeping the price to just $30 for the approximately 50 kids who take part in July.
“Which is great…” she said, given that lessons can be expensive.
Parrsboro doesn’t have a summer program with the Y, however.
All three recreation professionals mentioned the Lifesavers’ Swim to Survive program. Lifesavers couldn’t be reached directly, but the picture that emerged from the three speakers was that there is a province-wide initiative to teach every Nova Scotian Grade 3 student basic swim survival-skills. Coleman named a number of schools in or close to Amherst and Springhill that had completed the program. Skinner hoped the program – which may still be in the pilot stage – will reach Oxford next year, while Bolivar said she wanted to bring it to Parrsboro this past spring but couldn’t make it happen. She’s also pinned her hopes on next year.
Bolivar thinks that lack of swimming facilities is a serious deficit.
“It’s a huge gap,” she said.
One hurdle is the lack of qualified staff. Swimming isn’t popular in Parrsboro, so finding lifeguards and instructors would be a challenge.
There is water around the coastal town, of course – lakes as well as the bay. Bolivar said swimming in Fundy is “absolutely” an option, and said a number of lakes offer opportunities as well. Newville Lake, for example, has a “perfectly good access point” on the road to Amherst. (She expressed her view many residents are wary of swimming in lakes.)
When asked if the town has ever received a call from the owner of a private pool asking if there was some way to allow the public some kind of access, Bolivar said she didn’t think so.
“It’s happened in my head,” said the co-ordinator.
It’s not a crazy notion, though: when she worked in Lunenburg, one family that wanted lessons welcomed other kids to take lessons in their family pool, too.
“It is a very feasible idea,” she said.
Coleman said outreach is a priority for the Cumberland YMCA, and it’s a work in progress. She said OREC students completed an eight-week swim lesson program this past year, with kids broken into three ability levels. A staffer at Oxford Regional Education Centre said there’s a swim club for Grade 5 students – they travel to Amherst multiple times through the year for swims – and other trips to the Y’s pool are organized at the school. And Skinner made reference to twice-weekly free bus trips students took to Amherst this past year
A source reached at Parrsboro Regional High School said she’s unaware of any similar programs at that school. Coleman said classes from Advocate and Parrsboro have rented the YMCA pool a few times, with no instruction given.