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Users return to Powell River Recreation Complex

Programming has been reduced but activity resumes with safety foremost
Kevin Lessor Powell River
ACTIVE AGAIN: Powell River Recreation Complex patrons Kevin Lessor [left] and Cliff Burge are happy to be back in the water again. The recreation complex is operating in a reduced capacity, but it is providing opportunities for people to pursue fitness and emotional health. Paul Galinski photo

Powell River’s Recreation Complex is once again providing broad opportunities for residents to look after their health.

Neil Pukesh, manager of recreation, said the complex opened in July and a gradual, phased-in approach has been taken for the reopening, starting with summer camps and weight room operations in the summer. In September, ice was installed in the arena and then the pool reopened on December 14.

Pukesh said there has been a lot of learning in the process, establishing protocols and following guidelines from the public health office, as well as those from a couple of recreation associations.

“We have a well-adjusted program in place that puts customer safety at the forefront, as well as staff safety,” said Pukesh. “Safety is the primary concern so we really dug deep throughout the COVID-19 time period to make upgrades to the pool facility and in the recreation complex.

“The most important thing is the impact it’s had in the community. The public has been returning back to their regular routines.”

There are differences. Pukesh said people are required to register in advance to ensure there are not significant numbers of people showing up at one time. He said it’s like making an appointment to see a doctor or a dentist, making the booking ahead of time for recreation programming. There are dedicated time slots and maximum occupancy standards.

“It’s unreal to hear some of the feedback that we’re getting from the public on how this has impacted their lives for the betterment,” said Pukesh. “They are returning to some type of normalcy, not only for the physical health benefits, but also for the mental health benefits.”

Pukesh said the complex is nowhere near levels that were evident pre-COVID-19 but it is starting to trend upward.

“We’re seeing a lot more people return and a lot of them are seniors,” said Pukesh. “They’re in the gym in the morning and they’re working out. There’s a regular group that shows up in the pool.

“We’re also doing fitness class programming, providing the opportunity for people to get back into some low-impact exercises. We can’t offer everything and we are limited by the public health office orders, but the programs we are offering are about engaging the public, creating social opportunities again.

“In our environment, we have a lot of spacing. We are using the rink, which used to be covered in ice, so we have 15,000 square feet of space to offer these programs.”

Director of parks, recreation and culture Ray Boogaards said physical distancing is important and the complex has the space to do that.

Pukesh said it’s nice to see the public returning. People stop by his and Boogaard’s office every day, thanking them. He added that staff is working hard to make the reopening a success.

People are grateful to have this opportunity to do something they love to do, even during this pandemic time, according to Pukesh.

People wanting to sign up for access to the pool, skating, fitness programs and the gym can do it several ways. Pukesh said they can call in, or, if they have an account with the facility, register through their online account. People without memberships can register at the desk by the pool, or phone in.

“We’ve put a lot of planning into it,” said Pukesh.

Users have been most accommodating, according to Pukesh.

“They have been working with us and adapting to the new protocols,” he said. “The relationships we have with our users has fused well with cooperation and collaboration.”

Boogaards said staff members appreciate people’s patience.

“They all understand why we are putting these things in place,” he said. “They are happy to be back. It’s so important. This is the hub of the community.”

Pukesh said cleaning protocols have been stepped up during the pandemic. After every session in the gym, staff goes in and wipes down all equipment, and time is found to do deep cleans in pool change rooms.

“This place has never been cleaner,” said Pukesh. “We know we are providing a very safe environment. We know, in speaking to our colleagues throughout the province, there have been no outbreaks in recreation facilities because of our enhanced protocols.

“It’s great that people are back and getting active again. We can’t offer everything we want but we are offering programming we think is valuable and what we know will work for the betterment of the community.”

Recreation complex patron Cliff Burge said when the recreation complex shut down, it played havoc with his whole body, physically and mentally.

“I need it because I had a brain injury,” said Burge. “I need repetition, and I go to the pool for my cardiovascular activity. It’s for my physical and mental well-being.”

Before COVID-19, Burge said he went to the pool six days a week. Since it’s reopened, he’s been going three times a week.

“I can’t wait for this COVID thing to be gone so we get back to a normal schedule here,” added Burge.

Kevin Lessor said many of the people using the pool facility, swimming laps or doing aquasizes, are there for medical reasons.

“If it wasn’t for this place, I think a lot of us would be in a bad place,” said Lessor. “It’s been fantastic to get back into the activity. I do lap swims for an hour and then aquasizes for an hour. This is really helping.”