A LONG hot summer resulted in a successful 2015/16 season for South Gippsland’s outdoor swimming pools. So successful that Council has now begun planning for the 2016/17 season without making any major changes.
The YMCA will continue to operate four of the pools, while Carol and Ernie Bennett will continue to manage Toora Pool. The contract and operating arrangements will remain unchanged from the 2015/16 season.
When South Gippsland Shire recreation officer Ian Murphy presented the end of season report for the pools to Council last Wednesday, councillors were pleased to hear that patronage at the pools had generally been among the best seen in the last ten years.
“That’s fabulous news,” said Coastal Promontory Ward Councillor Mohya Davies. “We certainly know how well loved our pools are.”
Patronage at Foster Pool went up about 1000 from last season to this season – from 4087 visitors in the 2014/15 season to 5070 in the 2015/16 season. At Toora, where the pool is heated, covered, wind-protected and open for a much longer season, patronage also rose – from 23,253 in 2014/15 to 23,928 in 2015/16. The other pools also reported improved attendance figures.
As recently as last year, the future of several of the pools, Foster’s in particular, was under a cloud, with Council concerned about the cost of running half a dozen outdoor pools across the shire. Local communities, however, including Foster’s, soon let Council know how much they value their swimming pools, and the pools have been given a reprieve.
Master plans are gradually being prepared for each of the pools, even Foster’s. Plans have been prepared for the pools at Toora and Poowong, work on master plans for Mirboo North and Korumburra pools will begin in the next couple of months, and consultation for the Foster Pool Master Plan – which was shelved at one stage – will start next summer.
The report attributes the improved attendance figures to two main factors: improved weather over summer and an increased number of events and programs run at the pools. The 2015/16 summer season saw longer periods of warmer weather and more days over 35 degrees than the previous season.
Foster Pool, which opens later than the other pools, was open 64 days out of 87, Korumburra and Poowong pools were open 72 days out of 108 and Mirboo North 75 days out of 108.
The president of the Foster Pool committee, Ian Lyon, said one of the factors in the success of the 2015/16 season was the decision to drop the temperature at which the pool could open, from last year’s 26 degrees, regarded by many as unnecessarily high, to the more reasonable daytime forecast temperature of 25 degrees.
“Members of the community, particularly the kids, have really appreciated the change to the opening temperature rule,” said Mr Lyon. “Another improvement has been extending the pool closing time from 6pm to 7pm, and even as late as 8pm on very hot nights.”
The report stated that while the reduction in opening temperature increased the number of days the pools were open to the public, the additional days had not had a significant impact on attendance figures. “On days when the forecast was for 25 degrees, each pool generally received up to 40 visits. This indicates that a further reduction in the opening temperature is not required.”
“Once it was confident that the pool was no longer under threat of closure, Council invested in new solar mats and overhauled the treatment plant,” Mr Lyon said.
“The YMCA did a good job of managing the pool this year. They were more pro-active. That combined with the hot weather we enjoyed for much of the summer made for a great 2015/16 season.”
Foster Pool opened early on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for a regular group of lap swimmers. These sessions were well attended. Meanwhile, the YMCA introduced water aerobics on Wednesday mornings and these sessions proved quite popular with a regular group and will possibly be expanded next year.
The pool is particularly popular with the local schools. Both Foster Primary and South Gippsland Secondary College appreciated their students being able to participate in swimming classes and inter-house competitions without needing to be bussed out of town.
In a season which was overall very successful, one of the few lowlights was the lack of a monster inflatable. “Unfortunately, Foster Pool’s monster inflatable is no longer compliant with Australian Standards for a pool the size of Foster,” said Mr Lyon.
Due to the differing depth profiles of the pools, the Foster inflatable could still be used at other venues. It is proposed that Council purchase a new inflatable for the Foster pool prior to the 2016/17 season, and the other inflatable will be used at another pool.
Foster Outdoor Pool is expected to re-open for the 2016/17 season in December. Meetings will be held with the relevant stakeholders from each pool to plan the 2016/17 events calendar and the pre-season pool start-up timelines.