- This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73
Former Olympic swimmer Dan Thompson begins his trek in Tanzania Thursday, and I’m wondering why I didn’t think of that myself?
What’s best way to draw attention to a local cause? Would you climb Kilimanjaro to save the pool down the street?
- How far do we need to go to save our pools?
There was brief period in the late 90’s when I competed in triathlons, and I was lucky to train in an indoor pool located at Royal Vale school just down the road from my home. It was run by the city, entry was free, and there was always a lane available –that is until the day someone hung a sign on the door saying, “temporarily closed”. That was about ten years ago, and the pool never re-opened.
Turns out there’s a crack running through the foundation of the pool and no one wants to pay to fix it. The school board owns the property, but long ago gave up running the pool and leased it to the city. Meantime, municipal officials don’t want to invest any of their moula into fixing something that doesn’t belong to them. At one point, I was told the repair cost was estimated at between six hundred and eight hundred thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money. But what’s the cost of not fixing it?
Every time a facility like that is abandoned it’s one less reason to draw kids and adults away from the living room couch.
The confluence of crumbling infrastructure and feuding, cash-strapped municipal/education organizations isn’t unique to Montreal.
The Toronto Star reported this week on a wide variety of grass-roots groups taking different measures to save local pools. The eye-catcher is Dan Thompson’s trek.
- Dan Thompson trades trunks for hiking boots
Thompson is a former butterfly specialist who won medals for Canada in the late 70’s and early 80’s at the Commonwealth and Pan American Games. His one shot at Olympic glory was denied when Canada boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games.
Since retiring from competition, he’s had some interesting jobs in the front office of amateur sport, including heading up Swimming Canada between 2004 and2008.
- Thompson with Swimming Canada
Now he’s turned his focus to promoting school swimming programs and saving local pools – in particular the one at Jarvis Collegiate – one of several pools threatened with closure by the Toronto District School Board.
Thompson is aiming for $50-thousand to accomplish his initial goals. And the peak of his campaign is this week’s climb up Kilimanjaro.
On the surface, hiking and swimming don’t really have anything to do with each other. However, the climb and the attention it’s receiving is pretty seductive: use a healthy, physically demanding walking expedition to one of the planet’s jewels as a reminder of the importance of physical activity and healthy living. Big dreams start at your local pool!
Interesting that Thompson has chosen this point in his life to focus his attention at the grass-roots level. A quick read of his bio suggests that most of his energy until now was spent on working with elite level athletes and the issues that affect how they are trained. But I see that his two children are now approaching their early teens, and he can see first-hand the impact that pool access issues are having on “average” users.
Which brings me back to my story. I finally returned to regular swimming this summer, and am feeling much better for it. I wonder, though, if I ever would have left the training if the local pool hadn’t closed? How many other similar stories are out there in my neighbourhood?
And I wonder if I should have tried to rattle that locked door, and get the spotlight directed at my local pool? If only I thought like Thompson, maybe I could have saved the pool (and made a trip to Kilimanjaro!).