Pool restrictions leave northsiders desperate for a dip

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Dickson pool forecourt that staff encourage patrons to escape the pool’s social distancing. Photo: Paul Costigan

RECENT pool restrictions have further compounded the frustrations of swimmers this summer throughout Canberra’s northern suburbs.

The Dickson Aquatic Centre is allowing only 500 patrons inside the gates at one time over each of its three daily sessions.

Pool duty manager Matt Winders said a decision was made to restrict visitations to three hours in January to ensure the centre remained COVID-19 compliant.

“The reason we have done that is just to get people through the facility,” Mr Winders said.

“You would get people on a normal day usually stay all day.

“So to give everyone a shot at coming to the pool, we’ve opened it up in sessions.”

Several swimmers have walked away annoyed and exasperated after arriving at the pool without a booking.

Mr Winders said visitors are learning to deal with the new reality.

“The majority have been pretty good, but there’s the occasional awful one where they haven’t booked, they didn’t know they had to, they turn up when you’re full and you have to turn them away,” he said.

“That’s no fun to do to anyone, but generally the word has gotten out now that this is what’s happening.”

This comes after the Gungahlin Leisure Centre remains closed for casual swimmers.

The 50-metre indoor pool has been undergoing repairs for more than a month after it had initially been shut down for two months for maintenance last year.

The ACT opposition alleged the pool is “closed indefinitely” after the government advised Gunghalin’s lap swimmers to travel 30 kilometres to the Lakeside Leisure Centre instead.

But Mr Winders said “it wouldn’t surprise me” that Gunghalin swimmers are booking a large number of spots at the Dickson pool, as the only other alternative in the northern suburbs.

The closure of nearby Lake Ginninderra and Murrumbidgee River over “extreme levels” of blue-green algae that has affected the water quality at the popular swimming holes has further restricted northside residents wanting to keep cool as temperatures rise.

It has put an immense strain on the Dickson pool staff who are “under pressure” to keep the centre safe.

That extends to an intensive half-an-hour “cleaning window” between sessions to spray down the entire facility free of any detection of viruses.

“With this hot weather, we definitely are under pressure,” Mr Winders said.

“When we had the cold start to the summer, it wasn’t too bad – we were kinda half to three quarters (to our capacity).

“But the hot weather has really sealed it.”

Restrictions have been extended to the availability of only two barbecue areas to cut down on cleaning.

But the 500-person capacity can be spread over the centre, including the grass area and the popular middle-sized pool, which is popular with small children.

“We are just asking people to social distance inside the facility,” Mr Winders said.

“But it can be a little bit difficult with children.”

For more information at dicksonaquatic.com.au



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