Summer isn’t officially over until Sept. 22, but the city’s outdoor pools turn into sad empty shells of their former glory after Labour Day weekend. Why?
The kids are back at school and pumpkin spice lattes are on the menu, but this weekend’s blistering temperatures confirm it is still very much summer in the city.
So why are Toronto's outdoor pools drained?
Summer doesn’t technically end in the northern hemisphere until Sept. 22, but Toronto pools go to the dogs, literally, and close on Labour Day weekend with a season-ending special swim for pooches.
There is some outdoor relief with splash pads open until Sept. 18. (Click here for a map of facilities.)
Does it have to be this way?
With heat alerts cropping up into September (the city monitors the Heath Health Alert system from mid-May until the end of the month), this time of year often prompts the question.
It’s a question Coun. James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre), chair of the community development and recreation committee, says he’s heard before.
“This has been a hot September. For someone who is door knocking, I can tell you, it’s really hot out there,” Pasternak tells Toronto Storeys from the campaign trail.
He said the biggest barrier to keeping the pools open is finding staff. Outdoor pool lifeguards and other staff are seasonal workers, often students who head back to school in the fall.
That said, he would put it back on the agenda if he wins reelection and push to re-evaluate pool budgets and operating months to possibly add another two or three weeks.
“Whether you call it climate change, a heat wave, extended summer… we must give staff the tools and the flexibility to deal with it,” he says, adding that outdoor ice rinks could benefit from more flexibility too.
Back in September 2015, Coun. Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth) put forth a motion asking city staff to look into ways to beat the late-summer heat.
Staff looked into the possibility of keeping at least one pool open in each of the Toronto’s four districts into September. A report tabled in spring 2016 found it would cost $280,000 and there was no money approved for it in the city’s 2016 budget. Staff also pointed out that cooling centres, indoor pools, and splash pads were available in the event of a heat alert.
The report echoed Pasternak’s point about staffing issues and also suggested further study would be needed to determine how much use the pools would see.
So, basically: it’s expensive, the lifeguards are back in class, there are other ways to stay cool, and the city needs proof enough people would take the plunge to make it worthwhile.
It’s not uncommon to close pools in early September in the region, with Mississauga closing its seven outdoor pools on Sept. 2 and Thornhill’s lone outdoor pool closing on Labour Day.
But a little farther afield, Kitchener’s Harry Class pool was open last weekend, closing up for the season on Sept. 17.
And there’s still time to swim in a Canadian public pool this summer: in Vancouver, the Kitsilano Pool will be open until Sept. 23.
Or you could always jump in Lake Ontario.
But remember: the city stops monitoring swimming conditions at its 11 beaches on Sept. 3.