Filling certified lifeguard positions seems to be the main sticking point that holds the Harrison Hot Springs Public Mineral Pool back from returning to regular, pre-COVID hours. (Adam Louis/Observer)

Filling certified lifeguard positions seems to be the main sticking point that holds the Harrison Hot Springs Public Mineral Pool back from returning to regular, pre-COVID hours. (Adam Louis/Observer)

Chilliwack-Kent MLA, management brainstorm ideas to reopen Harrison’s public mineral pool

Paddon recently met with resort management to collaborate on staffing solutions

Local MLA Kelli Paddon is looking for ways she can help to get the Harrison Hot Springs Public Mineral Pool open once more.

Paddon said Harrison Mayor Leo Facio facilitated a recent meeting between herself and the resort’s new GM to discuss strategies for reopening.

The main barrier remains the same, according to Paddon – there are not enough lifeguards. This is not just a local problem, however. For example, in Toronto, 169 swim courses had to shut down due to a lack of swimming instructors, which affected 1,140 participants.

RELATED: ‘We are all working toward the same goal’ Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon responds to Harrison pool closure concerns

Elsewhere, in Kitchener, between 30 and 40 lifeguard positions needed to run various aquatic operations go unfilled due to a shortage of qualified individuals. Officials said the pandemic’s earlier days put lifeguard certification and recertification programs on hold due to necessary safety protocols; additionally, lifeguards left for new opportunities in the past couple of years.

“It’s difficult, but we also know it’s really important to open the pool,” Paddon said. She added she was “very pleased” with the steps in motion thus far, including recruiting work and arranging for accommodations for lifeguards and paying for Bronze Cross courses, which range between $35 and $268 throughout B.C., depending on your location. She indicated she and resort staff brainstormed a few more possibilities, including reaching out to the University of The Fraser Valley and local businesses that have their own certified lifeguards.

Concerned residents and visitors have called on the province for intervention, believing the resort staff to be in violation of their conditional exclusive water license to hot springs water. A portion of the license reads that the “flow of water shall be made available to the public at all times between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day, at a point to which the public is entitled to free access or to which the licensee grants free public access.” Based on this paragraph, some residents believe the pool’s extended closure due to the pandemic and then due to staff shortages contradicts the conditions on which the water license was issued.

RELATED: Lack of lifeguards shuts down Harrison public mineral pool again

“I understand people are really frustrated; I want to be able to hear directly from them and be able to engage and answer any questions and confirm our goal is the same,” she said. Conversely, Paddon added that she is grateful and optimistic when it comes to the initiatives the resort has put in place to resolve the staffing issue.

The MLA said she’s always open to other suggestions. She said the feedback received so far has been helpful; in addition to direct contact, Paddon has kept up with conversations on social media.

“We have some pretty amazing brains in our community, so where there are other ideas, I want to hear about those as well,” Paddon added. “The difficulty is not isolated to Harrison Hot Springs; it’s gross the country and even in the States. If we can get any out-of-the-box ideas, everything will get us closer to the goal of making (reopening) happen.”

Paddon said she’s met with a number of residents and plans to arrange more meetings in the future, including a meeting with a similar informal format that MP Brad Vis hosted in Harrison earlier this summer.

– With Files from The Canadian Press

Harrison Hot Springs

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